UN Human Rights chief arrives in Sri Lanka

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein arrived in Sri Lanka, a short while ago, for a four-day official visit.

During his stay, the High Commissioner will hold talks with leaders from the government and the opposition, and would also meet civil society members.

Zeid will be in the island from February 6 to 10 to see what is being done to implement the UN Human Rights Council’s October 1 resolution on Sri Lanka, according to reports.

He will not only discuss the implementation of the UNHRC resolution with Sri Lankan leaders and the diplomatic community, but travel to Jaffna and Trincomalee to meet local leaders, the war displaced, and victims of human rights violations.

Zeid’s visit assumes significance as in June, Sri Lanka is obliged to give an oral report to the UNHRC on what is being done, especially in setting up a judicial mechanism to try war crimes cases with the participation of foreign as well as local judicial personnel.

Al Hussein’s visit comes in the wake of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s remarks that foreign judges will not be invited to play a role in the domestic probe into the alleged atrocities committed during war with the LTTE despite the assurance given by the government to abide by the consensual resolution last October.

However, the Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva has said top UN official’s visit Sri Lanka has nothing to do with the review of the implementation of the Geneva resolution. He said that the government expects to discuss government’s political victories with him.

Responding to queries by The Hindu, Mahishini Colonne, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the visit was in response to an invitation extended by the government in February 2015, many months before the adoption of the resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in October.

She recalled that at the time of the presidential election in January 2015, there was a commitment given by Maithripala Sirisena to people of Sri Lanka on good governance and the protection of human rights. “As part of the government’s willingness to work together with international community, the invitation was extended to him,” she explained.