UN asks Sri Lanka to allow foreign judges in war crimes probe

The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday unanimously recommended a credible probe involving foreign judges and prosecutors into the alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka's battle against the LTTE, a resolution on which was surprisingly co-sponsored by Colombo despite its strong reservations.

Geneva: The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday unanimously recommended a credible probe involving foreign judges and prosecutors into the alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka's battle against the LTTE, a resolution on which was surprisingly co-sponsored by Colombo despite its strong reservations.

The 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at its ongoing 30th session here approved by consensus a crucial resolution led by the US and the UK, and backed by Sri Lanka itself, in a move hailed by international advocacy groups.

Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Geneva, Ravinatha Aryasinha said that his country stands committed to implement the UN resolution.

"Sri Lanka is pleased to join as a co-sponsor of this resolution as a further manifestation of Sri Lanka's commitment to implement the provisions of the resolution. We are eager to commence a wide ranging consultations for this purpose as soon as possible in a manner to expand the ownership of its content by all stakeholders," Aryasinha said in his address to the Council just before the resolution was adopted without a vote.

According to a UNHRC spokesperson, there was no voting and there were no last-minute revisions in the text of the draft resolution titled "Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka".

The resolution calls for establishment of a Sri Lankan Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law during the final phase of the nearly three decade-long brutal ethnic conflict that ended in military defeat of the LTTE in 2009.

The operative paragraph of the resolution sets stage for foreign experts without being prescriptive on international involvement.

Sri Lanka steadfastly held on to the view that any human rights and war crimes abuses should be investigated by a local mechanism. Yet the UN rights chief contended that the process must go beyond a domestic mechanism.

The resolution adopted today was in sharp contrast to the report of the UN Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein presented at the council session last month.

He had cited distrust in Sri Lanka's judicial and criminal procedures prescribed a hybrid court to investigate allegations.

The proposed mechanism will include Special Counsel's office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, and authorised prosecutors and investigators.

Besides asking Sri Lanka to form a credible judicial system for the probe, the resolution - based on a landmark report issued by the UN last month - also calls on Sri Lanka to allow for punishment of "those most responsible for the full range of crimes".

The resolution does not bind Sri Lanka to an international investigation into rights groups' claim that the military killed 40,000 civilians in the final months of the civil war.

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