Former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari, former Governor-General and High Court judge of New Zealand Silvia Cartwright and former president of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jahangir will advise and support the team set up to conduct a comprehensive investigation of alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka that was mandated by the Human Rights Council in March.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday announced that the three experts have agreed to work with the team carrying out an international inquiry that would look into alleged violations and abuses of human rights in Sri Lanka during the last years of the armed conflict.
Mr. Ahtisaari, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, has also served as a UN diplomat and mediator and is renowned for his international peace work. Ms. Cartwright, is a judge of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts in Cambodia and former member of the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
Ms. Jahangir is a previous holder of several Human Rights Council mandates and member of a recent fact-finding body into Israeli settlements. Her experience as a religious freedom activist is also likely to be considered relevant to Sri Lanka, as the Human Rights Council in March expressed its alarm at the significant surge in attacks against members of religious minority groups in Sri Lanka, including Hindus, Muslims and Christians. About a week ago, the coastal town of Aluthgama, south of Colombo, witnessed violent clashes in which four persons died and nearly 80, mostly Muslims, were injured following a rally of Bodu Bala Sena, a hardline Sinhala Buddhist organisation.
On the experts chosen to assist the panel to probe Sri Lanka’s right record, Ms. Pillay said: “I am proud that three such distinguished experts have agreed to assist this important and challenging investigation. Each of them brings not only great experience and expertise, but the highest standards of integrity, independence, impartiality and objectivity to this task.”
The experts will play a supportive and advisory role, providing advice and guidance as well as independent verification throughout the investigation.
The Investigation Team with whom they will work will consist of 12 staff, including investigators, forensics experts, a gender specialist, a legal analyst and various other staff. It will be operational for a period of 10 months up to mid-April 2015, the release said.
Sri Lanka has repeatedly rejected the U.S.-backed resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council in Geneva this March, and has refused to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner.
“Once again, I encourage the Government and people of Sri Lanka to cooperate fully with this investigation which can help shed light on the truth, and advance accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka,” the High Commissioner said, adding that the investigation would go ahead undeterred even if such cooperation was not forthcoming.
Keywords: Sri Lankan human rights violations, Eelam War, Sri Lankan Tamils issue, Martti Ahtisaari, Silvia Cartwright, Asma Jahangir, U.N> Human Rights Council, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay