June 25, Geneva: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay Wednesday announced the names of three distinguished experts who have agreed to advise and support the team set up to conduct a comprehensive investigation of alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka, as mandated by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March.
Former President of Finland and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Mr Martti Ahtisaari who has also served as a UN diplomat and mediator and is renowned for his international peace work has been named to the panel.
Dame Silvia Cartwright, former Governor-General and High Court judge of New Zealand, and judge of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts in Cambodia, as well as former member of the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is one of the three experts.
Ms Asma Jahangir, former President of Pakistan's Supreme Court Bar Association and of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, previous holder of several Human Rights Council mandates and member of a recent fact-finding body into Israeli settlements is the third expert.
"I am proud that three such distinguished experts have agreed to assist this important and challenging investigation," the High Commissioner said. "Each of them brings not only great experience and expertise, but the highest standards of integrity, independence, impartiality and objectivity to this task."
The team is coordinated by the senior human rights official Ms. Sandra Beidas.
The experts will play a supportive and advisory role, providing advice and guidance as well as independent verification throughout the investigation, the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) said.
The Investigation Team comprises 12 staff, including investigators, forensics experts, a gender specialist, a legal analyst and various other staff with specialized skills.
The team is expected to conduct its operations for a 10-month period beginning in mid-June t and ending in mid-April 2015.
Announcing the experts to the panel, the High Commissioner asked the Sri Lankan government to cooperate with the investigation which will still continue even if the government refuses to cooperate.
"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 still go ahead undeterred if such cooperation was not forthcoming.
Sri Lanka flatly rejecting the investigation mandated to the OHCHR by the adoption of the UNHRC resolution 25/1 in March this year refused to cooperate with the "OHCHR-driven so called comprehensive investigation emanating from it (resolution)."
The Sri Lankan parliament on June 18 passed a motion against the UN investigation and accordingly the parliament has decided to deny permission for the UN investigation team to enter the country.
The resolution adopted by the UNHRC requests the OHCHR to present an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-seventh session in September 2014, and a comprehensive report at its twenty-eighth session in March 2015.