UN war crimes probe:

Parliament to decide on SL’s participation

* Advisory Group to provide ‘independent verification’ of UN investigation

* Final report to be presented to UNHRC in March 2015


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The parliament would decide on Sri Lanka’s participation in proposed UN probe on atrocities allegedly committed by the military and the LTTE on the Vanni east front, during eelam war IV, ministerial sources said yesterday.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Central Committee (CC) presided over by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees on Monday night. Parliament will meet next Tuesday (June 17).

Soon after the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a US-led resolution 25/1 in March 2014, the government declared that it wouldn’t cooperate with the external probe under any circumstances. The government took up the position that the proposed investigation had no mandate to inquire into accountability issues here.

Authoritative SLFP sources told ‘The Island’ that its CC had decided to consult parliament after having received a detailed briefing by External Affairs Minister, Prof. G. L. Peiris regarding the planned investigation.

Having liberated the Eastern Province by June 2007, the military concluded the Vanni offensive in May 2009.

Responding to a query, sources said that Prof. Peiris had explained contents of a letter received by him from the outgoing UN Human Rights Chief Navanethem Pillay late last week. This was consequent to Pillay’s staff meeting Sri Lanka’s Permanent representative in Geneva Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha on May 30th. Prof. Peiris dealt with Ms Pillay’s missive, highlighting crucial points pertaining to the setting up of a comprehensive investigation into serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes. Pillay’s letter was dated June 5th.

Sources said that political parties, including constituents of the SLFP-led ruling coalition represented in parliament would be able to freely air their opinion on the issue. Sources said that the government would abide by whatever the majority in Parliament decided up on.

Depending on the majority decision of the House, the investigation team would receive access to the country during July-November period as requested by Pillay, sources said.

Prof. Peiris informed the CC of the appointment of Ms Sandra Beidas as coordinator of what Ms Pillay called a dedicated investigation team consisting of members of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Last Saturday’s edition of The Island exclusively reported Pillay informing Prof. Peiris of Beidas appointment as well as seeking permission to visit Sri Lanka during July-November before finalisation of the investigation.

Prof. Peiris quoted Pillay as having stated that the selection of other members of the investigation team was expected to be completed soon.

External Affairs Minister also explained the OHCHR’s move to appoint a separate group of senior external experts to oversee the investigation. Pillay has expressed desire to constitute the advisory group with former heads of State as well as /or former heads of major international organizations or specialists in international human rights and humanitarian law. According to Minister Peiris, Pillay was now in the process of contacting those who could be members of the advisory group..

Pillay has assured Prof. Peiris that the advisory group wouldn’t lead the investigation. Instead it would work closely with the investigation and provide what Pillay called an independent verification of the investigation.

In accordance with the Geneva resolution Special Procedure Mandate holders too, would provide inputs to the investigation process, Prof. Peiris quoted Pillay as having said.

The first meeting of the investigation team and the advisory group is now scheduled to take place early next month.

The investigation is expected to be completed in ten months.

The OHCHR also informed Sri Lanka that Pillay’s successor, Jordan’s Prince Zeid al Hussein would provide an oral update as regards the status of the investigation at the 27th session of the UNHRC and table the final report at the next session in late March next year.

The Sri Lankan government has been also assured that it would be given an opportunity to express its opinion on both oral update as well as the final report.

The OHCHR has also stressed the pivotal importance of ensuring safety and security of those who might come forward to assist the investigation as well as conduct what Pillay called an independent and credible domestic investigation into alleged atrocities committed during eelam war IV.

The government had been also told that the funds required for the project were available, hence the probe could get underway soon. Adequate funding for such projects was subjected to approval by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions of the United Nations Secretariat in New York.

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