Commission Investigating Cases of Missing Persons to release first interim report on missing persons from 1983 to 2009
Received over 23,000 complaints of missing persons
By Shanika Sriyananda
The eagerly anticipated reports of the Presidential Commission Investigating Cases of Missing Persons (PCICMP) – the final report on alleged violations of humanitarian law and human rights committed by the military and the LTTE during the final phase of the war - and the first interim report on missing persons from 1983 to 2009 will be handed over to President Maithiripala Sirisena in early October.
PCICMP Chairman Maxwell Paranagama told the Daily FT that the commission expected an early date to formally present the two reports to the President. “Most probably we will be given a date soon after President Sirisena arrives in the country from the UN General Assembly,” he said.
With over 23,000 complaints, the commission has been given an extension until February 2016 to submit the final report of the first mandate on investigating the disappearance of people from 1983 to 2009.
“The commission still gets five to six complaints on missing persons daily,” the Chairman said.
According to Paranagama, over 18,000 complaints on disappearances are lodged by civilians and over 5,000 complaints of disappearances are lodged by relatives of members of the armed forces and the police.
The PCICMP, which is also known as the ‘Paranagama Missing Persons’ Commission’, is headed by retired High Court Judge Maxwell Paranangama and comprises Suranjana Vidyaratne, Mano Ramanathan and two additional commissioners - retired High Court Judge Tillekeratne Ratnayake and Retired Ministry Secretary H. Sumanapala - who have been appointed by President Sirisena to expedite the investigation process.
The PCICMP was initially appointed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa following hundreds of complaints of abductions and forced disappearances at the end of the conflict in May 2009. According to its mandate it is tasked with inquire into the disappearances and abductions which occurred from 1983 to 2009.
However, the commission was later given another task, under a second mandate, to investigate human rights violations alleged to have taken place during the final phase of the last battle in 19 May 2009.
The main objective of the PCICMP is to identify persons responsible for the alleged abductions or disappearances and to initiate legal action against the culprits. It is also mandated to submit its recommendations on measures to be taken to avoid abductions and disappearances of persons in the future.
Former president Rajapaksa appointed an Advisory Council with a panel of international legal experts - Sir Geoffrey Nice, a Queen’s Councillor from the UK and Professor David M. Crane from the US - to assist the commission with international humanitarian and human rights laws. The xouncil, which was headed by Sir Desmond Silva, also included several academics in the field of armed conflict.
However, the Advisory Council no longer exists as the PCICMP has completed the task it was given under its second mandate.
“We have already finalised the report on humanitarian and human rights violations which took place during the final phase of the final battle and the services of the Advisory Council are not required,” Paranagama said.
He said that the commission was continuing with the investigations into disappearance from 1983 to 2009 with the assistance of a special investigative team headed by a retired High Court judge and five high-ranking retired police officers.
“The commission was given an extension until February next year to investigate claims of missing persons. The special investigative team had recently visited residences and military camps in the North and East to gather more information and verify some of the information with regard to missing persons,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Daily FT understands that the Government will present the PCICMP’s final report on violations of human rights during the final phase of the war in 2009 and the Udulagama Report by the commission which is headed by retired justice Nissanka Udalagama, on investigations into the death of 17 NGO workers, to Parliament soon.