UN Human Rights chief to visit Sri Lanka this week

The visit comes as a sequel to the UN Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka adopted in October in 2015, that had prescribed an investigating mechanism with the participation of international judges, prosecutors and investigators.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein will visit Sri Lanka this week amid an uncertainty over foreign judges’ involvement to probe the alleged atrocities committed during civil war with the LTTE.

Deputy Foreign Minister Harsha de Silva on Tuesday said the UN rights chief will be in Sri Lanka for four days from February 6. He will hold talks with leaders from the government and the opposition, and would also meet civil society members. The visit comes as a sequel to the UN Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka adopted in October in 2015, that had prescribed an investigating mechanism with the participation of international judges, prosecutors and investigators.

The visit assumes significance as an uncertainty prevails over the inclusion of foreign judges, after Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena in an interview to BBC Sinhala last week ruled out the participation of foreign judges in the inquiry. However, days later Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the government did not rule out international involvement in the domestic judicial process to fix accountability of those who committed rights abuses and war crimes during the last phase of the brutal 30-year civil war that ended in 2009.

Civil Society members have expressed concern over the contradiction and demanded a government policy statement on the UNHRC resolution, which was co-sponsored by Sri Lanka. Hussein in his report has advocated an international hybrid court to probe the alleged abuses. Sri Lanka has opted for a domestic mechanism with international experts assisting in the investigation.

The UN rights chief has also cited historical attempts to cover-up investigations through domestic mechanisms, rather than genuine processes to seek the truth. Hussein is expected to raise the issues when he meets Sirisena, Wickremesinghe, leaders of main Tamil party — the Tamil National Alliance.