Sri Lanka sees the end of international probes

ECONOMYNEXT – The United Nations Human Rights council has finalised its war crimes report formally ending international investigation against Sri Lanka, official sources said today.

The UN authorities shared two water-marked copies of the final report with the government of Sri Lanka on Friday on the eve of Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s visit to Geneva for the opening of the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions.

“The government has about five days to respond to the report,” a government source said asking not to be named. “Sri Lanka’s observations will also be included in the final version of the document that will be presented to the Council.”

The contents of the report or Colombo’s response were not immediately clear, but it is believed to contain a set of recommendations on addressing accountability issues and the troubling lapses on the part of successive governments.

Atrocities of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are also expected to figure prominently in the final report which has chapters on some of the most controversial incidents such as the massacre of surrendering rebel leaders and shelling of hospitals.

614“The investigators did not have to visit Sri Lanka because there was a wealth of evidence available abroad,” a diplomatic source said.

Three internationally respected figures headed the investigation launched in June last year following the US-led resolution in March 2014 forcing a foreign investigation after Colombo resisted calls for a credible local inquiry.

Former Finnish president and Nobel laureate Martti Ahtisaari served as an advisor to the international inquiry into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.

He was joined by Silvia Cartwright, a former governor general and high court judge in New Zealand who is serving as a judge in Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge War Crimes Tribunal.

The third member is Asma Jahangir, a former president of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association and of the country’s Human Rights Commission, who was also part of a UN team investigating Israeli settlements last year.

Their report was due to be unveiled in march this year, but the UN delayed it giving more time for President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to provide their inputs into the final document.

“In the past two to three months, the government has been working on establishing a domestic mechanism that is acceptable to all,” a government source said.

“Rhere is an abundance of international good will for the country and we want to live up to that.”

The government hopes that it will be able to spell out the broad outline of a domestic inquiry when the US moves another resolution, this time favouring Sri Lanka, before the end of the UNHRC sessions which starts Monday.

Last month, the US backed the new government’s plans for a local inquiry into alleged wartime atrocities, reversing its demand for an international probe.

“What is most significant is that the UN report on Sri Lanka this month will be the last international investigation,” a Colombo-based Western diplomat said.

Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal said last month that the US wants to sponsor a resolution at the September UN rights session backing Colombo’s plans that were outlined by officials.

The US has led efforts at the UN Human Rights Council for three resolutions against Sri Lanka, with the last one calling for an international probe into the alleged abuses.

But Biswal said there was new optimism for reconciliation over Sri Lanka’s wartime past, after President Sirisena ousted long-time strongman Mahinda Rajapakse at elections in January and again at a parliamentary election in August.

Washington had an uneasy relationship with Rajapakse, who staunchly defied Western pressure to investigate allegations of atrocities.

Rajapakse had insisted that not a single civilian was killed by troops under his command during the decades-long conflict.

The UN estimated that at least 40,000 ethnic minority Tamil civilians perished in the final months of fighting between troops and Tamil rebels that ended in 2009.

Since coming to power in January, Sirisena has vowed to pursue reconciliation efforts with Tamils and said he is ready to work with the international community on an investigation. (Colombo/Sept12/2015

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