New UNHRC chief asks Lanka to cooperate with int'l probe

The new chief of UN's human rights body today asked Sri Lanka to cooperate with the international probe into alleged human rights abuses during final stages of armed conflict against LTTE and hailed his predecessor Navi Pillay, with whom Colombo had an uneasy relationship.

PTI| Updated: Sep 08, 2014, 19:59 PM IST

Colombo: The new chief of UN's human rights body today asked Sri Lanka to cooperate with the international probe into alleged human rights abuses during final stages of armed conflict against LTTE and hailed his predecessor Navi Pillay, with whom Colombo had an uneasy relationship.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, in his first speech to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, said, that he attaches great importance to the investigation on Sri Lanka mandated by the Council.

"I encourage the Sri Lankan authorities to cooperate with this process in the interests of justice and reconciliation. I am alarmed at threats currently being levelled against the human rights community in Sri Lanka, as well as prospective victims and witnesses. I also deplore recent incitement and violence against the country's Muslim and Christian minorities," the Jordanian prince said.

Zeid's statement came as Sri Lanka last week expressed hope that he would pursue a different approach to Pillay who they alleged was biased against the country by favouring the Tamil minority.

Zeid, who is the first UN human rights chief from the Muslim and Arab worlds, began his four-year post on September 1, succeeding Pillai, a Tamil of South African origin, who was often viewed as hostile to the island nation by the authorities in Colombo.

Praising his predecessor, the new chief of UN's human rights body, said, "Navi Pillay was one of the greatest senior officials the UN has ever had, and one of the most able, formidable High Commissioners for Human Rights.

"That she could annoy many Governments ? and she did ? was clear; but she believed deeply and movingly in the centrality of victims, and of those who are discriminated against....I pledge to continue along the same path: to be as firm, yet always fair; critical of states when necessary, and full of praise when they deserve it," he said.

Sri Lanka faces an international probe over allegations that government forces killed about 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of fighting, a charge refuted by Colombo.