By Sandun A. Jayasekera
Sri Lanka would appoint a five member panel of judges to initiate fresh investigations into Human Rights and Fundamental Rights violations in the North-East and report back to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRC), officials said.
The newly appointed Chairman of the HRC, retired Supreme Court Judge Priyantha Perera told Daily Mirror yesterday that the three members of the five member panel of judges would be Sinhalese and other two from the Tamil and Muslim Communities respectively selected from among retired Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judges.
“I expect to commence the process from June and the response has been encouraging for the calling of applications. The judges will act independently under the mandate of the HRC. They will be paid on case by case basis they conclude, not a monthly remuneration,” Justice Perera stressed.
The probes will specially focus on the complaints received by the Internally Displaced Persons. However, the public round the country are free to lodge fresh complaints. The HRC has already received a large number of complaints of torture and human rights violations from the IDPs. We are determined to go into all these complaints as early as possible.
Commenting on the incidences of non-compliance with the HRC recommendations by respondents, Justice Perera said he had decided to summon respondents who did not comply with the recommendations made by the HRC and order them to show cause.
“I already have had a discussion with Police Chief Mahinda Balasuriya and he took an undertaking to carry out recommendations of the HRC issued against police officers. He agreed to start a constant dialogue with the HRC and pay a visit once a month or send his representative. Complainants are required to inform the HRC and the IG on non-compliance of the recommendations.
The HRC has taken measures to display posters at every police station in the country outlining the rights of the public and the consequences of violation of human rights with the objective to create awareness among the public, police and the armed forces personnel about human rights.
The HRC will appoint Human Rights Officers to every region to deal with incidences of human rights violations.
Justice Perera said he expected to propose to the government introduce amendments to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka Act of 1996 to give powers directly to it to deal with respondents who continue to flout the HRC recommendations.
Under the existing law, the HRC refers such failures to the President and President in turn refers them to Parliament which is inadequate to deal with the failure to give effect to HRC recommendations.
Justice Perera said he was in Geneva last week attending the UN sponsored Asia Pacific Human Rights Commission where Sri Lanka’s human rights record came under heavy criticism.
“However, I was able to pacify detractors and put the correct picture of Sri Lanka before them,” Justice Perera said.
He said the newly activated HRC will commence an interaction with the civil rights bodies and NGOs in the country in order to create an atmosphere where human rights of each and every individual is protected and also to deal strictly with those who violate them.