U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has set up a three-member panel to look into alleged human rights violations during the final stages of the war against LTTE in Sri Lanka.
The panel will be headed by Indonesia’s former attorney general Marzuki Darusman, who is also the U.N. special rights investigator to North Korea, and will submit its report within four months, a U.N. announcement said.
“The panel will advise the Secretary-General on the implementation of the commitment on human rights accountability made in the join statement issued by President (Mahinda) Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka and the Secretary General,” U.N. spokesperson Martin Nesirky told journalists.
Others on the panel are Yazmin Sooka of South Africa who served on her country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Steven Ratner, a lawyer from the United States.
“It will look into the modalities, applicable international standards and comparative experience in regard to accountability processes taking into account the nature and scope of any alleged violations in Sri Lanka,” Mr. Nesirky said.
The U.N. has made clear, however, that the panel is not a fact finding or investigative body “pointed at the Sri Lankan authorities”.
The report will also be made available as a resource to Sri Lanka if Colombo wants to use it.
“The primary responsibility for investigating these allegations,” Mr. Nesriky said, “is with the authorities of Sri Lanka.”
“The Secretary-General’s focus is on encouraging a serious national accountability process but clearly it will be up to the panel to offer the assessments and advice it considers pertinent,” he said, responding to whether the panel could recommend an international panel for investigation in the future.
The panel “hopes to cooperate with concerned officials in Sri Lanka,” the statement added.
Colombo has, so far, rejected any demand for an international involvement.
Sri Lankan government slammed the decision of the U.N. to set up a panel of experts to advice the Secretary General Ban-ki-Moon on human rights situation in Sri Lanka, saying it was “unwarranted” since Colombo has already formed a mechanism to address accountability issues.
Last month, the Sri Lankan government set up the “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” with eight members that will report back in six months.
Sri Lanka’s foreign minister G.L. Peiris on his first visit to the United Nations asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, not to interfere in the internal matters of the country and allow Colombo do conduct a domestic probe.
According to the United Nations, between 80,000 and 100,000 people were killed during the conflict, and 7,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the last four months of fighting.