White Flag and war crimes issues: Solheim testifies before UN

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan

Former Norwegian peace facilitator Erik Solheim said he had testified before the UN probe panel on the events that took place during the final phase of the war and the white flag issue in Sri Lanka.

Last year Solheim told Ceylon Today that he ‘would go before the International Criminal Court or any recognized International Tribunal to give evidence against Sri Lanka on alleged war crimes’.
2014111714115176734_20He said, “Yes, I told all what I knew to UNHRC panel about the final phase of the war and the white flag issue”.
In an exclusive interview with Ceylon Today, the diplomat who was severely criticized by the former government said that he is even ‘ready to share all what he knows with the credible national or International Tribunal on the final phase of the war events’.
Solheim also warned the September review on Sri Lanka should not be expected to be soft on any crime, whoever committed it. “Don’t expect it to be soft,” he said.

On accountability issue he said “In other former war zones like Balkans, Africa, and in Latin America accountability has always taken time. Everyone must show some patience, but at the end, war crimes will be exposed and brought before court. It is important to condemn all war crimes in the equal terms. Very clearly both the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE committed unacceptable atrocities,” he stressed.

The most urgent issue is to establish the truth. Survivors need to know what happened to their loved ones. How can a woman continue and restart her life if she does not know whether her husband or children are still alive?, he asked.

Expressing his willingness to come to Sri Lanka, he endorsed it would not be before Parliamentary elections and if he come now ‘some people’ will find that as ‘undue’. “I may come later this year, if invited by institutions in Sri Lanka,” he added.
Solheim acknowledged that UN High Commissioner Zeid bin Ra’ad assured him that he(Zeid) would release the Sri Lanka Report in September and it would contain ‘surprises’.

From 2002 till 2008, Solheim, played a major role in peace negotiations until former President Mahinda Rajapaksa terminated the Oslo deal alleging that they were supporting the LTTE.
Solheim said he would remain a lifelong friend to Sri Lanka despite the heavy criticism he faced by both Tamil and Sinhala extremists. “But that will never deter me from giving support to all the fantastic people of the most beautiful island on the planet”, he asserted.

Admitting that he keeps in touch with the Tamil Diaspora, he has been encouraging all the talented Sri Lankans in other parts of the world to use their vast abilities for the benefit of the people living in Sri Lanka. “So many Tamils and Sinhalese in the Diaspora are doctors, engineers, bankers, dentists.

They have a lot of expertise to offer. They are also a major potential source of investment to increase economic growth and prosperity,” he said.

“I am just sharing my modest experience and trying to promote rapid economic development in Sri Lanka. The latter is also my job as the Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee,” he said when asked what is his latest agenda with Sri Lanka.

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