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Top UN official to take stock of human rights in Lanka

A top UN official will visit Sri Lanka on Wednesday to take stock of the political reconciliation process and human rights situation in the country, amid a row over Colombo`s rights record.



United Nations: A top UN official will
visit Sri Lanka on Wednesday to take stock of the political
reconciliation process and human rights situation in the
country, amid a row over Colombo`s rights record, particularly
during the last phase of the ethnic conflict last May.

During his two-day visit from June 16, B. Lynn Pascoe,
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, will discuss
political reconciliation, the return and resettlement of
internally displaced people, and human rights situation in the
country.
"The visit will focus on issues covered in the joint
statement issued by the Secretary-General and President
Mahinda Rajapaksa in May 2009, including political
reconciliation, the return and resettlement of internally
displaced people, and human rights," said Farhan Haq,
associate spokesperson of UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon.

"Pascoe will meet President Rajapaksa, other senior
government officials, representatives of opposition and
minority parties, including Tamil leaders, as well as civil
society and media representatives," he added.

For the past few months, Ban has been in the process
of finding experts for an advisory panel that will counsel him
on accountability issues that arise with regards to alleged
human rights abuses that took place in the months leading to
the government defeating the LTTE in May 2009.

"Decisions on establishing the panel have already been
made. The Secretary-General is moving ahead with his panel of
experts," Haq said. "The United Nations has been going through
a careful process of selection. The Sri Lankan Government has
been informed of the Secretary-General’s plan."
Colombo has, so far, rejected any demand for an
international tribunal and the UN panel has not materialised.

This month, the Sri Lankan government set up the
`Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission` with eight
members that will report back in six months.

Sri Lanka`s Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris on his first
visit to the UN in May asked the Secretary General not to
interfere in the internal matters of the country and allow
Colombo do conduct a domestic probe.

"There is no justification legal or moral for this
step to be taken at this time," Peiris told PTI last month.

"Do not complicate matters by shoving you way in at
this stage. It?s not going to do any good. It has the
potential of doing real harm in a situation where the
government of Sri Lanka against overwhelming odds is trying to
move these processes forward," he added.

In May, a new report by the Brussels-based
International Crisis Group (IRC) accused Colombo of being
responsible for the large-scale loss of civilian lives and the
UN for failing to seek accountability.

"Evidence gathered by Crisis Group provides reasonable
grounds to believe that government security forces repeatedly
and intentionally violated the law by attacking civilians,
hospitals and humanitarian operations," the report said.

In March, the UN top official for Human Rights, Navi
Pillay, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that "the
opportunity for peace and reconciliation continues to be
marred by the treatment of journalists, human rights defenders
and other critics of the government."

International and local human rights watchdogs have
flayed the government for continuing with the emergency
regulations first imposed in 1983 to combat the LTTE, who were
finally defeated in May last year. They argue that the laws
have been used to suppress legitimate dissent and freedom of
expression.

Sri Lankan parliament has extended the state of
emergency each month as the government fears LTTE remnants
could make a comeback.

PTI

From Zee News

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