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* No delay in setting up the expert panel on Sri Lanka, UN Chief says
Wed, Mar 17, 2010, 09:43 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 17, Colombo: The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday (16) dismissed objections raised by Sri Lanka on establishing a panel of experts to advice him on the possible human rights abuses in the country and said it is well within his right to appoint such a panel.

"I am convinced that it is well within my power as Secretary-General of the United Nations to ask such a body to furnish me with their advice of this nature. This does not in any way infringe on the sovereignty of Sri Lanka," he said.

I'd like to make it clear that there will be no delay in the establishment of the panel," he assured. However, he had not given further details of when it would be set up or who would serve on it.

The UN Chief said the panel he plans to establish will advise him on the standards, benchmarks, and parameters, based on international experience, that must guide any accountability process such as the one mentioned in the joint statement he issued with the Sri Lankan President last May during his visit to Sri Lanka following the conclusion of the war.

Mr. Ban told a press conference in New York Tuesday that the panel will report to him directly and not to any other body.

The UN Chief said the joint statement he issued with President Mahinda Rajapaksa contained a commitment related to ensuring an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws.

President Rajapaksa objected to setting up the expert panel in a phone conversation with the Secretary –General last month calling it totally uncalled for and unwarranted.

Regarding the letter from the Non-Aligned Movement expressing concern over his move to establish the expert panel, the Secretary-General said the 118-member organization had a 'misunderstanding'.

"It is clear from the NAM letter that there is a misunderstanding on the nature and purpose of the panel of experts that I intend to establish. I will take this up directly with the Non-Aligned Movement," the UN Chief said.

"The Non Aligned Movement strongly condemns selective targeting of individual countries which it deems contrary to the founding principles of the movement and the United Nations Charter," the NAM's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in New York recently said in a letter.

UN Secretary General's move could do more harm than good to the country's ongoing and relentless efforts aimed at reinforcing reconciliation and national unity, the NAM Ambassador pointed out.

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