Advisory team named

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Outgoing United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay yesterday announced a three-member expert panel comprising former Finish President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Martti Ahtisaari, former New Zealand High Court Judge Silvia Cartwright and former President of Pakistan Supreme Court Asma Jahangir to advise the UN team inquiring into accountability issues in Sri Lanka.

Pillay, in a letter dated June 5 addressed to External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, has revealed that she approached former heads of state of major international organisations or specialists in international human rights and humanitarian law to play a supportive advisory role. The probe mandated by the Human Rights Council in March is scheduled to begin next month.

The experts are:  Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who has also served as a UN diplomat and mediator and is renowned for his international peace work; Ms Silvia Cartwright, former Governor-General and High Court judge of New Zealand, and judge of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts in Cambodia, as well as former member of the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; and Ms Asma Jahangir, former President of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association and of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, previous holder of several Human Rights Council mandates and member of a recent fact-finding body into Israeli settlements.

A statement issued by the UNHRC quoted Pillay as having said: “I am proud that three such distinguished experts have agreed to assist this important and challenging investigation. Each of them brings not only great experience and expertise, but the highest standards of integrity, independence, impartiality and objectivity to this task.”

The Investigation Team with whom they will work will consist of 12 staff, including investigators, forensics experts, a gender specialist, a legal analyst and various other staff with specialized skills. It will be operational for a period of 10 months (up to mid-April 2015).

“Once again, I encourage the Government and people of Sri Lanka to cooperate fully with this investigation which can help shed light on the truth, and advance accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka,” the High Commissioner said, adding that the investigation would still go ahead undeterred if such cooperation was not forthcoming.

(Courtesy: The Island / by Shamindra Ferdinando)