Colombo rejects U.N. envoy’s idea on rights

B. Muralidhar Reddy

Lack of information on allegations: Arbour

U.N. envoy not permitted to visit Kilinochchi

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka on Saturday rejected a top U.N. envoy’s suggestion for an international mission to monitor reports of abuses of human rights.

Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told a news conference along with U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour that Colombo would not agree to the establishment of either a monitoring mission or an office of the Commissioner.

Ms. Arbour, on a five-day field visit, made it known that she was alarmed at the “weakness of rule of law and prevalence of impunity” and declared that the Government approach in redressing the grievances of human rights violations was not adequate.

Disagreeing with the assessment, the Minister said the government would not allow any international organisation to become a tool for propaganda by its enemies.

Ms. Arbour said one of the major shortcomings is rooted in the absence of reliable and authoritative information on credible allegations.

“Many state that the LTTE is quick to manipulate information for propaganda gain. In my view this only accentuates the need for independent information gathering and public reporting on human rights issues. [The] OHCHR is willing to support the Government about the need for international support in human rights protection.” The Minister however chose not to respond to the offer. He said the government would expect the U.N. and the international community to strengthen the capacity of the human rights monitoring mechanisms in the country.

Ms. Arbour’s response to the Government formulation was sceptical. The U.N. envoy regretted that time did not permit her to visit the Eastern Province and Killinochchi, political headquarters of the LTTE. She said had the Government sanctioned her visit she would have conveyed to the LTTE her deep concern about their violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including the recruitment of children, forced recruitment and abduction of adults, and political killings.

The Minister said the Government did not permit the visit for safety reasons and the assessment that the Tigers would use the visit for propaganda purpose. “There is no need for her to visit Kilinochchi. The whole world knows what the LTTE is doing,” Mr. Samarasinghe said.

The U.N. envoy also said she was concerned by the reports of serious violations by the TMVP led by Karuna and other armed groups in the east. Asked about the reports of Karuna leaving the country recently, the Minister was non-committal and said the TMVP was a political entity.

In her statement Ms. Arbour said, “..In the context of the armed conflict and of the emergency measures taken against terrorism, the weakness of the rule of law and prevalence of impunity is alarming.”

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