UN Commissioner's call for war-crimes probe jolts Colombo

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 31 May 2011, 00:02 GMT]
Sri Lanka's effort to whitewash the charges of war-crimes during the final stages of war received a set back at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) annual session as Navaneetham Pillai, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she supported special UN panel's recommendations in the war-crimes report made public on 14th April. Meanwhile, despite the theatrics orchestrated by Colombo in questioning the authenticity of the incriminating "Channel-4" video of extra-judicial executions, UN human rights expert, Christof Heyns, said that the shocking footage showed "definitive war crimes," and "[w]hat is reflected in the extended video are crimes of the highest order – definitive war crimes," Associated Press said quoting Heyns.

Special Investigator on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns
Special Investigator on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns
 Navi Pillay
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay
"The overall conclusion reached by the experts is that the video is authentic and the events reflected in the video footage occurred as depicted,” Heyns told UN Human Rights Council.

The High Commissioner, Navi Pillai, referred to the report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on accountability in Sri Lanka, which concluded that there were credible allegations of a wide range of serious violations of international law committed by both the Sri Lankan Government forces and Tamil Tigers in the final stages of the conflict.

Addressing the 17th session of the Council, UN Human Rights chief, N Pillai said she supported the UN panel's recommendation "to establish an international mechanism to monitor national investigations and undertake its own as necessary. It would be important for the Human Rights Council to reflect on the new information contained in this important report, in light of its previous consideration of Sri Lanka and efforts to combat impunity worldwide.”

Predictably, Sri Lanka's External Affairs Ministry, resorted to its routine reponse in accusing the High Commissioner for "ignoring relevant rules of procedure of the UNHRC by attempting to legitimize" the UN war-crimes report and of continuing to demonstrate "lack of objectivity and impropriety."

A statement released by the Ministry Sunday evening, quoted Kshenuka Seneviratne, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva, as telling the UN Human Rights Council today that Sri Lanka is perplexed to note that the High Commissioner has thought fit to refer to the panel report in her report to the 17th Session of the UNHCR.

“The High Commissioner continues with a seeming preoccupation of calling for the establishment of an international monitoring mechanism, which also has been recommended in the report based on unverified information, and if adhered to will call into question, the professionalism and independence of the Council,” the External Affairs Ministry quoted Seneviratne as saying.

Pakistan, China, Russia and some Islamic members of the Human Rights Council moved to stop the debate on Sri Lanka's conduct at the end of the war, saying "[t]he international community must support national efforts to win the peace in Sri Lanka."

European Union reiterated its view that "an independent process to address extremely serious allegations should contribute to strengthening the process of reconciliation and ensuring lasing peace and security in Sri Lanka. The European Union was committed to upholding the human rights of migrants. It was taking the migratory consequences of recent developments in their southern neighbourhood seriously."

France supported the report of the Secretary-General on Sri Lanka, emphasized its legitimacy and called for justice in relation to violations of human rights there. France noted the human rights violations in Syria and called for perpetrators to be brought to justice. Switzerland added that "[i]t was crucial that appropriate follow-up be given to the recommendations of the report of the panel of experts on Sri Lanka."

While U.S. Asst. Secretary of State, Robert Blake, whose knowledge of "war crimes" in the Northeast was highlighted by US cables released by wikileaks, was advising Tamil expatriates to work "with Colombo on development," U.S. representative, Eileen Chamberlain, said at the UN session that "United States was deeply concerned by the findings of the panel of experts on the violations of international law and international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka and insisted that reconciliation in this country [Sri Lanka] must be built on accountability. It was a responsibility of the Government of Sri Lanka to respond to the findings of the panel and to ensure the future for the people of Sri Lanka."

Belgium noted that fighting against impunity was at the core of the report on Sri Lanka. Belgium noted that the recommendation to establish an independent commission of inquiry on Sri Lanka should be taken seriously.

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External Links:
UN: High Commissioner presents update
BP: Sri Lanka execution video 'authentic': UN envoy
NW: SRI LANKA: Australia silent over war crimes against Tamils
BBC: UN urged to probe Lanka war crimes
HT: Video proves Sri Lanka war crimes: UN expert


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