U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan, on Monday urged Sri Lanka to cooperate with the international probe mandated by the Human Rights Council.
“I attach great importance to the investigation on Sri Lanka mandated by this Council, on which OHCHR [Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights] will report later in the session,” he told the 27th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Replacing Navi Pillay
Virtually taking off from where his predecessor Navi Pillay left, he encouraged the Sri Lankan authorities to cooperate with this process in the interests of justice and reconciliation.
Observing that he was humbled to follow the course that Navi Pillay and her predecessors set, he said that Ms. Pillay was one of the greatest senior officials the U.N. ever had, and one of the most able, formidable High Commissioners. “That she could annoy many Governments — and she did — was clear; but she believed deeply and movingly in the centrality of victims, and of those who are discriminated against,” Mr. Al Hussein said in his opening statement.
Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. Ravinatha Aryasinha responded reiterating Sri Lanka’s categorical rejection of the resolution and its call for a ‘comprehensive investigation’ by the OHCHR.
In addition to being under scrutiny for alleged human rights violations, Sri Lanka also faced criticism at the Council in areas such as religious and media freedom.
Mr. Al Hussein, in his opening statement, said: “I am alarmed at threats currently being levelled against the human rights community in Sri Lanka, as well as prospective victims and witnesses. He added, “I also deplore recent incitement and violence against the country’s Muslim and Christian minorities,”, suggesting there would be no change in the position held by the High Commissioner’s office.
However, Mr. Aryasinha said Sri Lanka regrets attempts being made to portray the country as intolerant of religious minorities, adding that the Government expressly condemns all acts of violence against any religious or ethnic communities.
Sri Lanka has been in the spotlight ever since the Human Rights Council in March 2014 adopted a U.S.-backed resolution calling for a probe into the island’s rights record, where India abstained from voting. The Sri Lankan government however rejected the resolution, and said it would not offer any cooperation.
Mr. Aryasinha, who on Monday updated the Council on measures taken by the Sri Lankan government, reiterated that Sri Lanka was firm in its commitment to continue its ongoing domestic processes of accountability, justice, reconciliation and nation building and will continue to work with its international partners.