Sri Lanka invitation to UN panel opposed


News Source: BBC

A proposed meeting between the United Nations and a Sri Lankan presidential commission has evoked opposition from international human rights watchdogs and Sinhala nationalists within the ruling coalition.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called upon the United Nations to be cautious in sending its investigators to meet the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition partners Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and National Freedom Front (NFF) along with opposition Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) announced its anger towards the invitation extended by the government.

HRW

Brad Adams, executive director of HRW’s Asia Pacific Division told BBC Sandeshaya that the panel appointed by the UN secretary general should not visit Sri Lanka unless it is allowed to investigate alleged war crimes.

“We want to know what happened. We want justice for victims,” He said.

“The LLRC mandate should be changed and new people should be appointed to engage in a serious investigation. And there is absolutely no sign of that happening.” Brad Adams told BBC.

Farhan Haq, spokesman for the UN secretary general said the advisory panel would meet the LLRC. But he wasn’t sure when and where. Sri Lankan Government announced that it would allow the UN team to visit the island, reversing its earlier refusal to grant them visas.

‘No change in mandate’

Many organisations including the International Crisis Group (ICG), Human Rights Watch (HRW), and Amnesty International (AI) which calls for an independent and impartial enquiry to establish what happened during the final stages of war in Sri Lanka, have all refused invitations to take part in the proceedings of LLRC.

They argue that the commission is flawed because its members were appointed by the government, has no real mandate to investigate war crimes in the last stages of the conflict, lacks any mechanism to protect witness and falls short of minimum international standards of a commission of inquiry.

However, the government announced that the LLRC mandate will not be amended.

“In the event of the government facilitating UN Secretary General’s Panel to visit Sri Lanka, the LLRC will hear such representations on the basis of its warrant and the usual procedures followed for such hearings,” the Sri Lankan government said in a statement on Wednesday.

JHU, NFF and JVP

The JHU and the NFF say they fear that the UN advisory panel visiting Sri Lanka will result in the Sri Lankan government being implicated in war crimes.

“The UN panel will label the president and the defence secretary as war criminals,” NFF spokesman Piyasiri Wijenayaka told journalists on Wednesday.

“The invitation to the advisory panel will enable the security council and the UN Human Rights Commission to push the International community to take an adverse decision against Sri Lanka,” warned JHU spokesman Udaya Gammanpila speaking to BBC Sandeshaya on Tuesday.

Opposition JVP parliamentarian Vijitha Herath told journalists on Tuesday that the government has demonstrated it’s ‘duplicity’ by rejecting the UN panel earlier and inviting it now.

UNP

Meanwhile, the major opposition United National Party (UNP) has said that the imprisoned former army chief Sarath Fonseka should be allowed to meet the UN panel.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed the eight member LLRC to “report on the lessons to be learnt from the events in the period, Feb 2002 to May 2009”.

UNSG Ban Ki Moon appointed a three member panel to advise him on “accountability issues relating to alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law” during the final stages of the Sri Lankan government’s war against Tamil Tigers.

News Source: BBC

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