UN panel on Sri Lanka begins work

The panel will advise UN chief on alleged human rights violations in Lanka.

New York: A panel of experts, which has been set up to advise UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka during the LTTE era, has commenced its work amidst Colombo`s refusal to allow its entry to the country.

The three-member panel has commenced its work after a meeting with the UN Secretary-General, UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said in a statement.

"This meeting marks the formal commencement of the Panel`s four-month mandate. Secretary-General is pleased that the Panel is fully underway and looks forward to receiving its advice," the spokesperson said in the statement.

"The Secretary-General is committed through his focus on this issue to contribute to lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka," Nesirky said.

Despite Colombo`s protests, the Secretary-General in June had set up the three-member panel to look into alleged human rights violations during the final stages of the war against LTTE in Sri Lanka.

Immediately after the announcement of the panel`s formation, the authorities in Sri Lanka had termed it as "unnecessary".

"We will not allow the UN Panel (on Sri Lanka) to enter the country. We may not issue them visas," Sri Lanka`s External Affairs Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris had said.

In July, Wimal Weerawansa, a Sri Lankan cabinet minister, went on a brief hunger strike to protest against the UN probe into alleged human rights violations.

The panel is expected to produce a report within four months, which will also be made available as a resource to Sri Lanka.

The panel is headed by Indonesia`s former attorney general, Marzuki Darusman, and has two other members - Yazmin Sooka of South Africa and Steven Ratner, a lawyer from the United States.

Colombo has asserted that establishment of the panel is hampering their domestic investigations, which is being conducted by the "Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission”, made up of eight members that are expected to report back in the coming months.

During his visit in May, Peiris had asked Ban to let Colombo handle the probe and not to interfere at this stage.