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UN to press Sri Lanka for accountability

By Betwa Sharma
March 09, 2010 14:15 IST
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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that he will press ahead with setting up a special panel on accountability in Sri Lanka, despite Colombo rejecting his proposal.

"I made clear to President (Mahinda) Rajapaksa that I intend to move forward on a Group of Experts which will advise me on setting the broad parameters and standards on the way ahead on establishing accountability concerning Sri Lanka," Ban told media-persons I New York, referring to a conversation he had with Sri Lankan President on Thursday.

"I am concerned with the lack of progress of the joint statement which both I and President Rajapaksa had agreed during my visit last year," he said.

A joint statement issued by the government of Sri Lanka and Ban at the conclusion of the latter's visit to Sri Lanka in May 2009, reads "Sri Lanka reiterated its strongest commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, in keeping with international human rights standards and Sri Lanka's international obligations."

Following the announcement of the advisory body last week, Rajapaksa said, that "intention of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a panel of experts to advise him on Sri Lanka is totally uncalled for and unwarranted." Ban said that very shortly Under-Secretary-General of Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe would be dispatched to Sri Lanka to take the matter forward.

The conversation between Ban and Rajapaksa took place after High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern at the continuing human rights violations in Sri Lanka and asked its government to investigate all human rights violations that occurred during the conflict. "The opportunity for peace and reconciliation continues to be marred by the treatment of journalists, human rights defenders and other critics of the Government," Navi Pillay told the Human Rights Council in Geneva."I am convinced that Sri Lanka should undertake a full reckoning of the grave violations committed by all sides during the war, and that the international community can be helpful in this regard," she said.

Colombo rejected the UN's call for investigations.

In a special session on May 26-27 last year, the 47-member body of the Human Rights Council passed a resolution introduced by Sri Lanka with 29 votes in favor, 12 against and 6 abstentions that commended the government for its handling of the conflict and did not call for an investigation into human rights violations.

Since then, the international community and human rights organizations have been pressuring Ban to set up an independent investigative panel, which has not been done so far. The head of the UN also noted that the conversation also dealt with "issues that were of concern to both of us" including political and the condition of internally displaced persons.

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Betwa Sharma at the United Nations
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