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Last updated: 14 May, 2007 - Published 17:07 GMT
 
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Commission urges witness protection
 
Justice Nissanka Udalagama (photo Elmo Fernando)
Witnesses are reluctant to give evidence without protection says the Commission
A special presidential commission has stressed the need to establish an victim and witness protection unit before launching investigations into human rights violations.

Justice Nissanka Udalagama, chairman, Presidential Commission to investigate serious human rights violations, told BBC Sandeshaya that witnesses are reluctant to come forward.

"We are trying to establish a victim and witness protection unit to encourage them to give evidence before the Commission," he told Elmo Fernando.

Witnesses 'fear reprisals'

International human rights watchdogs ahve called upon the government to protect witnesses as many are reluctant to give evidence fearing reprisals.

The Commission begun investigations into 16 serious human rights violations since august 2005.

 We are trying to establish a victim and witness protection unit to encourage them to give evidence before the Commission
 
Justice Udalagama

Killings of then foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, TNA MPs Joseph Pararajasingham and Nadarajah Raviraj and the murder of Deputy General Secretary of Sri Lanka Peace Secretariat, Ketheesh Loganathan, are among the incidents probed by the Commission.

The investigation is also focused on killing of 17 aid workers in Muttur and the bomb blast that killed 68 civilians in Kebitigollewa, Anuradhapura.

International monitoring panel

An international panel of jurists are to monitor the transparency and the independence of the hearings, Secretary to the Commission, SD Piyadasa, told BBC Sinhala.

Bodies of the Muttur victims being exhumed
Commission is to investigate killing of 17 aid workers in Muttur

The Commission was given 12 months period to investigate and provide recommendation.

"In case investigations require more time we can make a request to extend that period," Justice Udalagama told BBC Sandeshaya.

The investigation is to follow normal judicial procedures, he said.

It is up to the President may to take appropriate action General upon receiving the recommendations from the Commission, the chairman added.

 
 
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