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Sri Lankan panel starts probing missing people

Posted on Mar 20 2014 | IANS

Colombo, March 20 : A special commission appointed to investigate thousands of people who went missing during Sri Lanka's three decade-long civil war has started its probe in the eastern part of the country, an official said here Thursday.

Last month Sri Lanka's president extended the mandate of the special commission tasked with investigating thousands of people who disappeared during the country's brutal war amid international pressure.

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed the special Presidential Commission to probe people missing during the war ahead of an official visit by UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay in end-2013.

As many as 16,000 applications have been received by the commission from the families of people who disappeared during the war.

The three-member commission is mandated to inquire into and report on alleged abductions or disappearances during the period June 10, 1990 to May 19, 2009.

Commission chairman Maxwell Paranagama said the commission was well received in the Eastern Province that bore the brunt of the war for decades, Xinhua reported.

"Everyone, including government officials and religious leaders were very cooperative during hearings," Paranagama said.

The extended mandate comes as the Sri Lankan government faces a resolution before the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva for failing to implement adequate reconciliation measures and investigate allegations of war crimes after the end of the conflict in 2009.

The resolution, which is the third consecutive one faced by the government, is led by the US which has insisted that Sri Lanka's human rights record has failed to improve since the conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended in 2009.

The Sri Lanka government has vehemently denied war crimes allegations and has lobbied extensively to obtain support from UNHRC members to defeat the resolution that would be voted March 28.

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