Daily World News Digest, 29 September 2015

Sri Lanka’s Premier describes domestic mechanism for human rights abuses

The Lankaweb news portal reported on 28 September that Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has described the key features of the domestic mechanism to be implemented following the UNHRC resolution about Sri Lanka on 30 September. Three main offices will be set up; the Missing Persons Office, the Special Counsel’s Office and the Truth Commission. The Missing Persons Office will be a permanent institution dealing with relevant complaints. The Special Counsel’s office will decide on the investigations and the cases that should go directly to the judiciary or to the Truth Commission. Foreign prosecutors may join according to the situation that would arise from time to time. http://bit.ly/1MBOXok

Human Rights Watch warns about flaws in the Colombian peace agreement

Human Rights Watch issued a statement on 28 September saying that the agreement between the Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) guerrillas would deny justice to thousands of victims of grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law by allowing their abusers to escape meaningful punishment. While the “Special Jurisdiction for Peace” would create important incentives for violators to confess their crimes, it would also allow those responsible for mass atrocities to avoid spending any time in prison, HRW said. Under the agreement announced by President Juan Manuel Santos and leaders of the FARC, a new Peace Tribunal would try those responsible for grave crimes committed during the armed conflict. Those responsible for crimes against humanity and serious war crimes that cooperate with the new judicial system and confess their crimes would spend between five and eight years under “special conditions” that would entail “effective restraint of liberty,” but no prison time. http://bit.ly/1KF5rv8

Poland reburies Second World War heroes dumped in mass graves

The StarPhoenix, a daily from Canada, carried a story on 28 September reporting the reburial in Warsaw on Sunday of the remains of 35 Polish men who fought against the Germans during the Second World War but were killed by the postwar Communist regime. The burial was attended by senior government officials, including Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz. The remains were recently recovered from unmarked mass graves with bullet holes in the back of their skulls. The burial is part of efforts made by democratic Poland to recognize war heroes and anticommunist activists who were persecuted, killed and deliberately purged from records during the decades of communist rule. The remains of about 120 victims – entangled skeletons and shattered skulls – were discovered in 2012 and 2013 under a lawn in the Powazki cemetery. About 40 have been identified using relatives’ DNA. Efforts are underway to locate and identify dozens more. http://bit.ly/1VmQDEj

Israel: Bereaved families seek answers over missing tank crew

The Times of Israel reported today on efforts by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to resolve a 42-year-old mystery regarding the whereabouts of the remains of four Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers who died in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and may have been buried in Jerusalem without their families’ knowledge. Ya’alon, who fought in the war, last week asked to see details of a report by the IDF’s Missing Persons Unit that concluded that the Egyptians had returned the remains of a tank crew killed on the first day of the war, 6 October 1973. For over four decades, IDF soldiers Meiron Altager, Yaakov Keller, Haim Mutzafi and Dan Gilat were believed to have fallen in action along the Suez Canal. The whereabouts of their remains were officially unknown. But last year, a report from the missing person’s unit concluded there was a high probability that their bodies were returned to Israel in July 1977 and interred in a mass grave for unidentified soldiers at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem. A modern DNA test would involve exhuming the bodies, a controversial issue in Israel, as the practice is considered a desecration of the grave, which is forbidden under Jewish religious laws. http://bit.ly/1MWLofv

Items in Daily World News Digest are summaries of published reports relevant to the issue of missing persons, compiled by ICMP staff.  These items do not necessarily reflect the position of ICMP.