Lanka launches pre-emptive strike at UNHRC

By Chandani Kirinde

Sri Lanka is to carry out a pre-emptive campaign ahead of the UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva next week to ward-off any moves to trigger a debate on allegations of human rights violations during the last stages of the fighting against the LTTE.

Plantations Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe who has also been assigned the subject of human rights will lead the Sri Lanka delegation to the Council’s 17th session which begins in Geneva on May 30. With him is Irrigation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva. The two ministers will launch the pre-emptive campaign along with Attorney General Mohan Peiris who will join them soon.

Part of this campaign will be the debunking of the video footage telecast by Britain’s Channel 4 television station. The video purportedly showed soldiers shooting LTTE cadres held in their custody. The Sri Lanka delegation will insist that the video was filmed with high quality equipment which was not available in the battle zone at the time. Those who claimed to have provided the footage say the incident was filmed by a soldier on his mobile phone camera. Several other factors will be brought up to prove that the footage was bogus.

The Sri Lankan delegation is also to brief UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay and delegates of other countries on its claim that the report of the UN Experts Panel appointed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was baseless.

Ms. Pillay has welcomed the Panel’s report on accountability in Sri Lanka and said the UNHRC "fully supports the recommendations to establish an international mechanism" to go into allegations of human rights abuses during the last stages of the war against the LTTE.

The report published late last month said there were “credible allegations” of war crimes being committed during the last stages of the war by government troops and the LTTE and recommended that an “international mechanism” be put in place to monitor national investigations and undertake its own, if necessary.

The Government has rejected the contents of the report and said the local mechanism, the Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), has been addressing the concerns raised in the report commissioned by the UN Secretary General.

The UNHRC sessions will go on till June17. The 47 member Council comprises Thailand (Chairman), Angola, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, France, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Hungary, Japan, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malaysia, the Maldives, Moldova, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Uganda, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay and New Zealand.

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