New UN Human Rights High Commissioner expected to be tougher than Pillay

navi_pillay Reports suggest UNHRC commissioner to name investigation panel on SriLanka on June 10.

Contrary to expectations, Jordan’s Prince Zeid al Hussein is most likely to be a much tougher opponent than his predecessor, Navi Pillay, the outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Prince Hussein’s appointment couldn’t have come at a worse time for Sri Lanka, well informed sources told The Sunday Island yesterday. The longtime diplomat would give up his post as Jordanian Permanent Representative to the UN in New York to take up the Geneva posting, they said. Responding to a query, they recalled the circumstances under which the Jordanian diplomat adopted an extremely hostile approach towards Sri Lanka during a post war issue.

“We are concerned about the latest development,” an official said, adding that UN Secretary General’s statement came in the wake of Pillay informing Sri Lanka of UN readiness to move ahead with the investigation. Having emphasized that the required funding was available, Pillay has sought an opportunity for the proposed investigation team to visit Sri Lanka between July and November. She has expressed confidence in completing the investigation in about 10 months.

In spite of having the backing of several countries, including India, Sri Lanka had failed to make a determined effort to delay funding for the project, well informed sources said. Asked whether any remedial action could be taken in the wake of the New York development, these sources asserted that at least an internal inquiry was needed to establish the circumstances under which the funding was obtained.

While the new appointment required approval of the General Assembly, the Western powers would ensure the required support, sources said. Although Pillay’s term could have been extended in 2012 by four years, she was given only two years, they said. The bottom line was that Pillay was never a darling of the West, especially the US, though she took a tough position on the Sri Lankan issue, they added.

A former diplomat told The Sunday Island that the Western powers would never have a person whom they couldn’t implicitly trust as the human rights chief. The government would have to review its strategy, he said. He believed that simply refusing to cooperate with the investigation would be inimical to the national interest.