The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

Media Release

18 January 2007

Eminent Australian Jurist to Assist Human Rights Inquiry in Sri Lanka

I welcome the appointment of Emeritus Professor Ivan Shearer AM RFD as Australia’s nominee to the Independent International Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP). The IIGEP was established by the President of Sri Lanka to assist a national Commission of Inquiry investigating serious human rights abuses in that country since August 2005. Professor Shearer brings a wealth of experience and credibility to the role. He has dedicated a career to international and human rights law. Professor Shearer has served as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee since 2001 and is a Senior Member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. He was Challis Professor of International Law at Sydney University until his retirement in 2003.

The IIGEP, made up of eminent nominees from the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Indonesia, India, Japan, European Union, Canada, Bangladesh and Australia, will play an important role in observing the inquiry to evaluate whether the inquiry meets international standards. Members of the IIGEP will observe the proceedings of the Commission of Inquiry and will be entitled to access all information and material to which the Commission of Inquiry has access. IIGEP members may also provide technical assistance to the Commission of Inquiry.

I consider the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry, and the IIGEP, to be an important step in ending the environment of impunity in which human rights abuses are taking place in Sri Lanka. It is important that those responsible for atrocities are held accountable.

Australia’s $31 million aid program to Sri Lanka is focused on humanitarian assistance to communities affected by the conflict in all parts of the country. Australia responded generously to the devastation to Sri Lanka’s coastal regions caused by the 2004 Tsunami. Australia has also provided technical assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka investigation into the massacre of 17 aid workers in Muttur in August 2006.

I hope the Commission of Inquiry makes a contribution to reconciliation between communities in Sri Lanka and helps promote conditions in which an early resumption of the peace process is possible.

Media Inquiries: Mr Downer's office 02 6277 7500 - Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555

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