Refusal to name war crimes probe team highlights UN hypocrisy – GL Foreign experts’ role clarified

GL PERIESBy Shamindra Ferdinando

External Affairs Miniter, Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday said that the government of Sri Lanka couldn’t accept a secret investigation team tasked with inquiring into alleged atrocities committed during the eelam war IV.

Prof. Peiris was responding to yesterday’s The Island exclusive headlined ‘UN sidesteps critical issues, refuses to name investigation team’ with strapline ‘OHCHR’s and Pillay’s positions contradictory.’

How could there be any faith in a mechanism when those investigated wouldn’t even know the identities of those handling the inquiry, Prof. Peiris said. OHCHR spokesperson, Rupert Colville declined to divulge the names of the members of the investigation team, though British national Sandra Beidas was named as its coordinator. Minister Peiris asserted perhaps the anonymous inquiry team was even worse than a Kangaroo court, hence GoSL decision to shun the investigation.

The External Affairs Minister pointed out the absurdity in expecting Sri Lanka to cooperate with an investigation when at least the identities of those conducting the probe weren’t known.

On June 25, UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay announced the three member expert team which would advise and support a team of 12 UNHRC investigation team.

The experts are, Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Silvia Cartwright, a former Governor-General and High Court judge of New Zealand, and Asma Jahangir, former President of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association and of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. The UNHRC team consists of investigators, forensic experts, a gender specialist, a legal analyst, and other specialized staff.

Referring to a series of statements attributed to Jahangir, Prof. Peiris expressed serious concern over her motives. The minister alleged that Jahangir seems to be engaged in a campaign of her own targeting Sri Lanka. Accusing a section of the international community of undermining post-war reconciliation process here, Minister Peiris said that the global community couldn’t ignore measures taken by the government to address grievances.

Commenting on President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision to broaden the scope of the mandate of the Presidential Commission to Investigate Complaints Regarding Missing Persons headed by retired High Court judge Maxwell Paranagama, Prof.  Peiris said that the appointment of an expert panel was meant to strengthen the domestic process.

The Presidential Secretariat on Thursday announced the appointment of British lawyers Desmond de Silva and Geoffrey Nice and U.S. law professor David Crane, on to the advisory panel, are all former U.N. war crimes prosecutors.

 

President Rajapaksa, Prof. Peiris said made the appointments subsequent to HC judge Paranagama informing him of completion of substantial amount of work and that appointment of experts could help the ongoing process.

 

Minister Peiris emphasized that it was wrong to interpret the newly appointed body as a foreign body as its role was to support the domestic process. “It was within the local mechanism.”

 

The minister reiterated that the government wouldn’t subject itself for an external investigative mechanism under any circumstance.