US welcomes panel as Sri Lanka moves to block experts visa

[TamilNet, Thursday, 24 June 2010, 11:46 GMT]
While Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, welcomed the panel of experts saying that the "United States supports a robust accountability process that will provide a durable foundation for national reconciliation and the rule of law in the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s decades-long conflict," Sri Lanka's External Affairs Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris told reporters that "[w]e [Sri Lanka] will not issue them [UN panel] with visas. We will not allow them into this country [Sri Lanka]," Colombo media reported.

Ambassador Rice's statement said:

    The United States supports a robust accountability process that will provide a durable foundation for national reconciliation and the rule of law in the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s decades-long conflict. To that end, the United States welcomes UN Secretary General Ban’s announcement of a panel of experts to provide advice on relevant best practices for investigations into the alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. To be successful, Sri Lanka’s domestic “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” should apply the best practices from similar commissions in other countries and the government of Sri Lanka should give serious consideration to its Commission’s recommendations. We strongly urge the Government of Sri Lanka to take advantage of this UN Panel’s expertise.
Sri Lanka has been voicing displeasure against moves to appoint the UN's advisory panel, and the announcement by UN Secretary General Ban of the panel triggered a hostile response from Mr Peiris who said that Colombo will not allow the three experts, Marzuki Darusman from Indonesia, Yasmin Sooka from South Africa and Steven Ratner from the United States to visit Sri Lanka.

Minister Peiris said the UN panel was "totally unnecessary," and that the "[Sri Lanka] government should be given a free space to make its own findings," through Colombo's own "Lessons learned and Reconciliation" commission.

But Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director with Human Rights Watch, warned it has "long been abundantly clear that the Sri Lankan government is unwilling to seriously investigate wartime abuses."

"Secretary-General Ban's new panel will only be of value if it can quickly produce a roadmap for an independent investigation that the secretary-general implements," she told AFP.


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