Intl. rights groups invited before LLRC

By Satarupa Bhattacharjya

Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has asked the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), the Human Rights Watch (HRW) in New York and London-based Amnesty International to send their respective representatives to Colombo to appear before it next month.

According to an LLRC official, letters to the international non-governmental organisations were dispatched on August 31, calling for their participation “on suitable dates” in October at the ongoing hearings at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies.
While the LLRC official said that the three INGOs were yet to formally respond to the panel, the Amnesty International confirmed to Sunday Times that it had received the LLRC letter.

“Amnesty International has received an invitation from the LLRC and is discussing the request,” Sonya Merkova, press officer (South Asia), Amnesty International told the Sunday Times last Friday via e-mail from London.

In their reports three months ago, the ICG and the HRW had alleged that “Sri Lankan security forces and the LTTE” had committed war crimes especially between January 2009 and the end of war in May. On world humanitarian day (19th) last month, Amnesty International had asked the UN to “independently investigate violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Sri Lanka.”

While the LLRC has invited Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan to appear at a date of his convenience, Ranil Wickremesinghe who as the Prime Minister signed the ceasefire agreement with the LTTE in 2002, is unlikely to be invited. At least, that seemed to be the indication till last week.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa had mandated the LLRC to study the last seven years of the conflict beginning with the “failure of the 2002 ceasefire agreement.” The panel is scheduled to meet people in Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi on September 18, 19 and 20 and in Jaffna on October 9, 10 and 11. It had met war-displaced people in Vavuniya last month.

Minister of Livestock and Rural Community Development Arumugan Thondaman who is also leader of the Ceylon Workers’ Congress along with Sunday Island editor Manik de Silva and three representatives of the Colombo-based Gandhi Centre are expected to appear before the LLRC tomorrow.

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