Pillay fires fresh salvo!

Saturday, 14 June 2014 00:58 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Govt. expressly defying UNHRC resolution calling for cooperation with probe: Pillay’s Spokesman
  • OHCHR has conducted probes without cooperation of governments before: Spokesman
  • Pillay to put together ‘group of experts’ to support and advise investigation team
  • 12 staff on probe team: investigators, two forensics experts, gender specialist, legal analyst
By Dharisha Bastians UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay has expressed ‘deep regret’ about Sri Lanka’s announcement that it will not cooperate with the investigation into alleged war crimes and major rights violations during the last seven years of the war, to be launched by her Office next month. “The High Commissioner deeply regrets the Government’s categorical statement to the Human Rights Council on Tuesday that it will not cooperate with the investigation, thereby defying the express call of the Human Rights Council in Resolution 25/1 for the Government to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) investigation,” OHCHR Spokesman Rupert Colville told the Daily FT. Colville said there have been other instances when UNHRC-mandated investigations have been carried out without the cooperation of the Government Concerned. “OHCHR has well-tested methodologies in such cases,” the Spokesman added. Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva told the Council on Tuesday that the Government was categorically rejecting the Resolution adopted in March, and the “comprehensive investigation emanating from it”. However, the Government has since decided to debate the issue in Parliament for a decision on whether Sri Lanka should cooperate with the investigators. High Commissioner Pillay had written to the Sri Lankan Government on 5 May, expressing hope that it would cooperate fully with the investigation, including by providing the investigation team with regular access to the country, and by sharing information and interacting regularly with the team in Geneva, Colville told the Daily FT. “She wrote to the Government again on 5 June, laying out the parameters of the investigation and providing details about the team that is being assembled to carry it out,” he explained. According to the OHCHR Spokesman, Pillay has also decided to appoint a small number of senior external experts to advise and support the investigation team. “However, since this is an OHCHR-run investigation, rather than in independent commission of inquiry, they will not lead it,” Colville explained. The Spokesman for Pillay’s Office said that in addition to providing expert guidance, they will accompany the investigation process and provide independent verification of the investigation’s integrity. “Contrary to numerous speculative reports appearing in the Sri Lankan media, OHCHR is currently still in discussion with a number of possible senior experts to ascertain their availability and interest, and no one has yet been officially appointed to such a role,” Colville added. He said once the experts’ role has been confirmed, Pillay would inform the Government of Sri Lanka of their identity. Former New Zealand Governor General, Dame Silvia Cartwright, has been unofficially named as one of the ‘senior experts’ enlisted by the OHCHR for the Sri Lanka probe and her name appeared in local press reports this week. Colville said the Sri Lanka investigation team would meet for the first time in July, in Geneva, including the experts picked by High Commissioner Pillay. “The team will consist of 12 staff, including investigators, two forensics experts, a gender specialist, a legal analyst and various other staff with specialised skills. The Coordinator is Sandra Beidas, a senior OHCHR staff member with more than 20 years’ experience in the field and extensive expertise in conducting human rights investigations,” he explained. The investigators will have a budget of $ 1,192,000 for their work in 2014, after the sum was approved by the UN Advisory Committee on Administration and Budget Questions in New York on 3 June, Colville confirmed. “As per usual practice, the OHCHR will ensure that the Government of Sri Lanka has the opportunity to provide comments on both the oral and comprehensive report of the investigation before they are issued,” he said.    

 Navi’s office slams criticism of Senior Coordinator

  Pillay’s Office has strongly objected to what it called the ‘campaign of defamatory comments’ aimed at Sandra Beidas, the senior coordinator appointed to run the OHCHR probe on Sri Lanka. OHCHR Spokesman Rupert Colville told the Daily FT that the campaign had begun shortly after Beidas’ identity as coordinator of the investigation team had been made known to the Sri Lankan Government by Pillay in her 5 June letter. Colville explained that Sandra Beidas’ expulsion from South Sudan was related to the UNMISS Human Rights Division’s mandated and legitimate activities to investigate allegations of violations. “We believe her work in South Sudan fully complied with the professional standards of human rights staff working in an integrated mission such as UNMISS,” he said. The Spokesman added that Beidas’ extensive and varied field experience fully justifies her appointment as head of the current investigation team on Sri Lanka.

 Sri Lanka flays international ‘prophets of doom’

  • Ambassador Aryasinha hails Govt.’s humanitarian reliefprocess before UNHRC
Sri Lanka had disproved the ‘prophets of doom’ that feared the Government would be unable to deliver on the daunting humanitarian challenges it faced post-war, the country’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told the Human Rights Council’s 26th Session on Thursday. “Fears were expressed that malnutrition, disease and death would be rampant in the IDP villages, that the Government would not be interested in demining, that IDPs would be ‘incarcerated’ indefinitely, that the LTTE ex-combatants would not be released,” Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha told the Council. “However, the verifiable ground realities on each these counts have proven that these fears were misplaced,” he said in the Government’s official response to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur for IDPs, Chaloka Beyani who referenced Sri Lanka in his speech before the Council on Thursday. The Sri Lankan Government had not only delivered humanitarian assistance post-conflict, but also in the war years, sending food supplies and paying public servant salaries, even in LTTE controlled areas. “It has been the hallmark of the Government’s approach to its citizens in the former conflict affected areas during the entirety of the conflict. It would be recalled that even during the conflict, the Government of Sri Lanka continued to supply food, medicines and other essential requirements to its citizens in the former LTTE dominated areas, fully cognizant that a large part of it was confiscated and stockpiled by the terrorists,” the Sri Lankan envoy told the  Council. These efforts had been hailed by Beyani’s predecessors, Aryasinha said. “Of late, there appears to be a new tendency by these same sections of the international community to undervalue and downplay these tremendous humanitarian efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka, as though this has been an easy or negligible feat,” Aryasinha charged. He said that those who seek to downplay the Government’s humanitarian achievements “keep shifting goal posts”. “They show disrespect not only to Government of Sri Lanka and its domestic and international partners whose steadfast commitment to this task has made these achievements possible, but also to those who have at last emerged from the suffering caused by 30 years of terrorist conflict,” Ambassador Aryasinha added. (DB)