Sri Lanka probe has started, claims UN

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The appointment of Sandra Beidas as Coordinator of a 12-member UN team to investigate alleged war crimes and human rights violations in Sri Lanka during and after Eelam War IV, signals the beginning of the investigation process, United Nations officials told Express on Friday.

Asked if the process will begin only after the two top experts are appointed, an official said that it is the 12-member team coordinated by Beidas which will be doing the investigations and the experts will only be offering their guidance and expertise.

“The appointment of the experts is not critical since the investigation is to be led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The OHCHR committee appointed by High Commissioner Navi Pillay with Sandra Beidas as the Coordinator, is the one which will be conducting the investigations. With the appointment of the committee, the investigative process has already begun in a sense,” the official explained.

The committee comprises specialists in various fields under which war crimes and human rights questions fall. There will be forensic, legal and gender experts among others on the team.

Dame Silvia Cartwright of New Zealand, who was a judge in the Khmer Rouge War Crimes Tribunal, will be one of the two pro-bono experts. The other expert is yet to be named.

The OHCHR is looking for an expert from an Asian or African country. But so far, nobody from those regions has given his or her consent to join the controversial and delicate task.

UN sources expect the investigation to begin full scale by mid-July and take 10 months to wind up.

Following the Sri Lankan government’s decision to refer the probe issue to Parliament, the latter will take up the issue for a debate on June 17 and 18. The government will table a motion rejecting the UN probe on the grounds that it  infringes the sovereignty of Sri Lanka and jeopardizes the Sinhalese-Tamil reconciliation process already on in the country.

Sri Lanka had previously made it clear that it would not cooperate in the probe. – The New Indian Express