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Geneva never dealt with UNSG Panel of Experts’ allegations FM response to RTI query:

(Courtesy of The Island)

marapanaThe Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) hadn’t dealt with UNSG Panel of Experts (PoE) allegations. “Allegations in the Secretary General’s PoE report, if at all, are for a local investigation process in Sri Lanka to examine,” Director General (Legal) of the Foreign Ministry C.A.H.M. Wijeratne said.

Wijeratne said so in his capacity as the Foreign Ministry Information Officer, in response to the The Island query: “The House of Lords was told in Oct 2017 of the existence of wartime British High Commission dispatches (Jan-May 2009) from the Office of its Defense Attaché in Colombo which contradicted PoE allegation pertaining to deaths of 40,000 civilians. Would you be requesting members of UNHRC to reexamine allegations directed at the Government of Sri Lanka in the light of this fresh evidence?”

The Island raised the inordinate delay on the part of the Foreign Ministry to take up British dispatches with the UNHRC in terms of the Right to Information (RTI) Law enacted in early 2017.

The PoE comprising US, South African and Indonesian nationals in March 2011 accused Sri Lanka military of killing 40,000 civilians on the basis of what it called ‘credible sources.’

The Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTFRM) in early last year called for full participation of foreign judges, and other foreign personnel, including defense lawyers, prosecutors and investigators, in transitional justice mechanism to address accountability issues. CTFRM endorsed the Oct 2015 Geneva Resolution recommendation in respect of foreign judges.

Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana in late Nov 2017 assured parliament that Lord Naseby’s statement based on British military dispatches would be used at the appropriate time.

As the Foreign Ministry hadn’t so far made representations to Geneva, The Island sought a clarification in this regard in accordance with the RTI Law. The Foreign Ministry said that “Resolution 30/1 of 1 Oct 2015 and Resolution 34/1 of 23 March 2017 can be accessed online as the Resolutions are public documents, and the actual provisions of the Resolution can be ascertained accordingly.” As for information on process of implementation, the Foreign Ministry provided copy of the statement made by the Leader of the Sri Lanka delegation to the 37th session of the Human Rights Council. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tilak Marapana on March 23, 2018.

The Foreign Ministry was responding to the following The Island query: “UNHRC gave Government of Sri Lanka two years in March 2017 to implement its Resolution 30/1 adopted in Oct 2015. What is the status of the implementation process? Would it be possible to fulfill obligations, including the finalization of the new Constitution by March 2019?”

The copy of the speech made no reference to credible evidence in the form British HC dispatches from Colombo.

However, Farhan Aziz Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the then UNSG António Guterres in Nov 2017 told The Island that the UNHRC could revisit Resolution 30/1 titled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’

Haq said that decisions regarding actions taken by the UNHRC were solely in the hands of the members of the Human Rights Council. Haq said it would be up to the member states of the Human Rights Council to decide whether to revisit Sri Lanka’s case on the basis of representations made by a country.

The UNHRC comprises 47 countries divided into five zones.

The UN spokesperson said so when The Island asked him whether there was a possibility in UN revisiting Geneva Resolution in the wake of Lord Naseby assertion during a debate that the maximum Vanni death toll was 7,000 to 8,000 not 40,000 as reported by PoE and GoSL never targeted civilians purposely.

The Island raised the issue with the UN in the wake of Sri Lanka parliament taking up the issue twice since Naseby’s Oct 12 bombshell statement in the House of Lords.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

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