Pillay denies claims on Lanka probe

navi_pillayThe UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay has denied several claims made with regards to the investigations launched on Sri Lanka through her office, including claims that India had rejected visas for the investigations team.

Pillay told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that no one had applied for a visa for Sri Lanka or any other country

She said there was a wealth of information outside of Sri Lanka which can be tapped into for the investigation.

“The credibility of the report will depend on it reflecting proper standards of corroboration of evidence, whether the team is allowed into the country or not.”

Pillay noted that the UN can conduct an effective investigation into reports of war crimes in Sri Lanka without visiting the country.

She cited Syria and North Korea as examples where, despite no access, investigations were carried out.

“Hardly anyone, apart from the Syrian and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea governments, are questioning the credibility of these two inquiries, so I don’t see why it should be any different in the case of Sri Lanka,” she said.

The Sri Lanka investigation, which began on July 1, has increased tension between the government and the United Nations. Some non-government groups have accused authorities of trying to discourage war survivors from giving evidence.

Pillay said false information was being spread to discredit the inquiry. “Regrettably, there has been some serious misinformation and distortion,” she said.

Media reports that investigators were denied visas by India and Thailand were false, said Pillay, adding that no one had applied for a visa for Sri Lanka or any other country.

The investigation’s coordinator and members of the advisory board had been “subjected to personal attacks in some Sri Lankan media that were both distorted and inaccurate”, she said.

The 12-member team is based in Geneva but will travel to other countries when necessary. They will collect information, including testimonies, and verify allegations of atrocities. The findings will be presented to the UNHRC in March.

Pillay said the investigation was essential to establishing who was responsible for violations and to hold them to account.

“It is important to understand that this investigation was set up for the benefit of all Sri Lankans, as an avenue to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation,” she said.

“It is in this context that the Human Rights Council-mandated investigation should be viewed, rather than being seen as a confrontation.”