Preparations for UN inquiry gather steam

Monday, 9 June 2014 00:04 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • New Zealand-born intl. judge on Khmer Rouge War Crimes Tribunal to be one of two experts supervising UN probe
  • Two names still in play for second pro bono expert
  • OHCHR confirms Sandra Beidas will lead staff team
  • Govt. to respond to appointments when UNHRC 26th Session opens tomorrow
  • UN General Assembly approves budget ($ 1.46 m) for Sri Lanka probe
  • Pillay’s Office sends letter to Lanka mission in Geneva with details of probe team
By Dharisha Bastians Dame Silvia Cartwright, an international judge on the Khmer Rouge War Crimes Tribunal, will be one of two senior pro bono experts leading the UN inquiry into alleged war crimes and major rights abuses by both sides to the conflict in the last seven years of Sri Lanka’s war. Multiple sources confirmed Cartwright’s appointment for the 10-month stint at the helm of the UN probe into Sri Lanka, which she will supervise together with another individual of international stature. Two possible candidates are still being considered for this second expert role, authoritative sources told the Daily FT. According to the UNHRC staffing guideline for the Sri Lanka probe, the two pro bono experts will “provide high level expertise and guidance to the investigation, analysis and preparation of report,” the Daily FT revealed last week. Senior UN Staffer Sandra Beidas will lead the staff team from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), a Spokesperson for the Office confirmed yesterday.   "Dame Silvia Cartwright
  • Born: 7 November 1943 (age 70), Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand
  • Education: University of Otago
  • 1989: First female Chief District Court Judge
  • 1993 First woman to be appointed to NZ High Court.
  • 2001-2006 Governor General of New Zealand
  • Served on UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
  • International Judge on Extraordinary Chambers in Courts of Cambodia (Khmer Rouge Tribunal)"
“She’s well qualified – a very experienced investigator,” the OHCHR Spokesperson said. Sri Lanka’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva has been issued a letter from the OHCHR last week which provides details about the investigation team, the Daily FT learns. Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha said the Government would formally respond to the new appointments to the investigating team when the 26th Session of the UN Human Rights Council kicks off tomorrow. The Sri Lankan Government is already expressing reservations about Beidas’ role after the official was expelled from South Sudan after the Government there objected to a report raising allegations of atrocities by its Army in 2012. The UN called it a breach of South Sudan’s legal obligations under the UN charter and charged that evidence of her ‘unethical’ probe was never provided. Beidas will assume the role of ‘senior coordinator’ a UN P5 level position, “to coordinate work and activities and act as the main interlocutor with stakeholders and oversee report writing and documentation,” according to a UNHRC document outlining staff roles and budgets exclusively revealed by the Daily FT last week. Cartwright and Beidas will be two members of the 15-member team the OHCHR is putting together to launch the Sri Lanka probe. New Zealand’s Dame Cartwright is one of two international judges to sit on the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia established to try members of the Khmer Rouge for violations of international law and serious crimes perpetrated during the alleged Cambodian genocide. The court was established as part of an agreement between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the UN. Sandra Beidas counts over 15 years of experience in the UN system, working in Haiti, Congo and Nepal and previously worked for Amnesty International.
  • "Total cost: $ 1,460,900: Approved by UNGA Investigating Team Composition:
  • Pro bono expert #1: Dame Silvia Cartwright
  • Pro bono expert #2: To be decided  
  • 1 Coordinator (UN P5 level): Sandra Beidas
  • 1 human rights investigator (senior): 10-month period
  • 1 legal advisor: 8-month period
  • 2 human rights investigators: 8-month period
  • 1 administrative assistant: 10-month period
  • 1 Sinhala and Tamil Translator/interpreter: 3 months
  • 1 Forensic Consultant: 3 months
  • 1 Archiving Consultant: 2 months
  • 2 pro bono experts to travel to Geneva (21 days), Sri Lanka (5 days), Asia Pacific region (5 days)
  • 1 pro bono expert to North America and Europe (5 days each)"
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who will preside over a UNHRC session for the last time from tomorrow, will tell the Council that her staff team is in place to commence the inquiry, mandated by a HRC resolution led by the US in March this year. The OHCHR will brief human rights activists and other stakeholders about the composition of the investigation team and its terms of reference and mandate once the 26th Session of the UNHRC opens, highly-placed sources told the Daily FT. The investigative team will likely commence work in July, the OHCHR Spokesperson said. The team's preliminary findings will be reported before the UNHRC session in September, two months later. Last week, the UN General Assembly in New York approved the budget for the OHCHR investigation on Sri Lanka, to the tune of $ 1,460,900. According to a preliminary staffing outline for the Sri Lanka investigation, the OHCHR has earmarked three human rights investigators, one legal advisor, a senior coordinator, an administrator and a Sinhala and Tamil translator to be part of the panel. A forensic consultant to analyse photographic and video material and an archiving consultant will also be enlisted for shorter periods, according to the document currently in possession of the Daily FT.