Involvement of foreign jurists and investigators in a judicial mechanism, suggested initially in a report by the UN on alleged violations of human rights in Sri Lanka and later in a draft resolution co-sponsored by the U.S., is nothing new for the South Asian country.
In the last 50 years, the services of international judges and investigators were utilised on many occasions.
In June 1963, a three-member Commission of Inquiry was set up to go into the assassination of former Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in September 1959. It included judges from Egypt and Ghana. The panel’s report was published two years later, holding that no organised body was “directly or indirectly” linked to the plot.
In April 1993, when Lalith Athulathmudali, leader of a breakaway group of the United National Party (UNP), was shot dead in Colombo, the Scotland Yard was allowed to assist the local police for investigation. In August 1993, the British agency cleared the government and the ruling UNP of any involvement.
In May 1993, the government set up a commission of inquiry, comprising three judges from Ghana, New Zealand and Nigeria, to probe the death of Northern Commander Lt Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa.
In November 2006, the Mahinda Rajapaksa government established a commission of inquiry with Supreme Court judge Nissanka Kumara Udalagama to go into allegations of human rights violations since August 1, 2005.
Three months later, it also formed an 11-member International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) with P. N. Bhagwati as the chief to observe the work of the Udalagama commission. But the IIGEP terminated its work in March 2008, citing the government’s “lack of political will”.
Former Foreign Minister and professor of law, G.L. Peiris, says obtaining technical inputs from foreign experts on legal or forensic matters is different from handing over the investigation to foreign judges, which is “totally unacceptable.”