President Mahinda Rajapaksa today announced the appointment of a special commission to investigate the Matale mass grave.President’s secretary Lalith Weeratunga said that the commission will be led by former Justice S.I. Imam, Retired High Court Judge Bandula Atapattu and former Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Kitulgoda. The international police INTERPOL had in May been asked to assist in the investigations into the Matale mass grave. The Magistrate Magistrate had said in May that INTERPOL assistance had been sought and once that is obtained then DNA tests will be carried out on the skeletal remains found at the grave site.The Magistrate also ordered that public notices be issued in all three languages to ensure than anyone who has more information or wants to give evidence in the case comes forward. The UNP, which was in power during the 1987-89 period, said it will back an independent investigation into the mass grave. The UN had also been called to assist in the investigations into the mass grave. Over 150 skeletal remains and human bones have been unearthed from the mass grave in Matale. Forensics had determined that the remains were of those killed sometime in the late 1980′s and the area has now been marked as a crime scene.At least 10 skeletal remains were first found from the site near the Matale hospital in November last year by construction workers when land near the hospital was being dug-up to construct a new building. Following police investigations excavation work began to look for skeletal remains at the site and more remains were found.The JVP had demanded that the government carry out investigations on the mass grave following fears the remains maybe that of JVP members or supporters killed during a 1987-89 insurgency. In a written statement submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, ahead of the 22nd session last March, the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a nongovernmental organization, had said that the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances should, through their experts, study the situation and the conduct of inquiries relating to the remains of the 200 or more persons found in Matale and assist the Sri Lankan government to ensure that these inquiries meet international standards. (Colombo Gazette) Weeratunga told media heads at a breakfast meeting that the commission has been asked to investigate all angles into the mass grave.
“Three separate ceremonies were held today near the town of Bambari during which 357 children were released by anti-Balaka militias and the ex-Séléka armed group,” the UN children’s fund UNICEF said in a press release.More than two years of civil war and sectarian violence have displaced thousands of people in the Central African Republic (CAR) amid ongoing clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka alliance and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian. The UN estimates that some 450,000 people remain displaced inside the country while thousands of others have sought asylum across the borders. “After two years of heavy fighting, the release of children by these groups – on the same day – is a real step towards peace,” said Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF’s Representative, who attended today’s ceremonies. “Violence and suffering can now give way to a brighter future for children.” “This was the start of a process that we hope will result in the release of thousands of children associated with armed groups in the Central African Republic,” Mr. Fall added.UNICEF estimates that between 6,000 and 10,000 children are currently connected with the country’s armed factions. This figure includes children serving as combatants, others who are being used for sexual purposes, and those working as cooks, messengers and in other roles. Today’s events represent the single largest release of children associated with armed groups in the Central African Republic since violence erupted in 2012, according to UNICEF. The agreement by the leaders of CAR’s 10 armed groups to release children in their ranks was signed during a national reconciliation forum held in the capital Bangui last week as the result of collaboration among UNICEF, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the Government of the Central African Republic. The agreement also commits the groups to ending additional child recruitment and gives UNICEF and its partners immediate and unrestricted access to the areas under the groups’ control in order to identify and verify the number of affected children and to secure their release. The released children received medical screenings and had the opportunity to speak with trained social workers, according to the UN agency. And when security conditions permit, children with relatives in the area will be reunited with their families while others will be placed with foster-caregivers until their families can be located. “Each of them will require extensive support and protection so that they can rebuild their lives and resume their childhood,” the agency said.UNICEF said that the process of releasing and reintegrating the children will place additional demands on the already limited funding available to respond to the humanitarian emergency in the country. UNICEF has received only $17 million out of the $73.9 million required.