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* Judging Sri Lanka by the initiatives of OHCHR is a 'travesty of justice'
Wed, Mar 5, 2014, 08:29 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Mar 05, Geneva: Rejecting a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on the country's post-war progress as "fundamentally flawed" in its entirety, Sri Lanka today said judging the country by the initiatives of Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is a "travesty of justice" .

Delivering the national statement at the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Wednesday, leader of the Sri Lankan delegation to the session, Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris said the initiatives of the report as well as the Resolution 22/1 disregard the substantial progress made by the Government during the five years since ending the war against Tamil Tiger terrorists.

"They also pay scant regard to the complexities and local nuances of a sensitive reconciliation process, while eroding confidence of the people of Sri Lanka by the constant changing of unjustifiable demands," the Minister said.

He said the High Commissioner's is based on questionable and baseless material including what has been processed outside the UN framework.

The Sri Lankan envoy accused that the High Commissioner's Report and those who "exalt its virtues" only seek to inflict harm on the reconciliation process by bringing about a polarization of the Sri Lankan society.

He expressed concern that lack of financial independence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) leads to the erosion of independence in its overall functioning.

Explaining that due to the need to depend on voluntary contributions, the OHCHR is paying a disproportionate attention to country-specific action in the UNHRC selectively targeting some countries, while conveniently ignoring situations, human rights violations and restrictive practices in other parts of the world that warrant more urgent and immediate attention and action.

He criticized the OHCHR for exploiting human rights for political purposes and continuing the practice of country-specific resolutions in the Council saying that the practice must be stopped.

"We reiterate that such politicized action is contrary to the high purposes and principles of the Council and must be arrested," the Sri Lankan Minister said.

Responding to the charges that Sri Lanka has not shown adequate progress in implementing the recommendations of the domestic reconciliation mechanism, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), Minister Peiris said that there has been significant progress in the reconciliation process over the past 12 months.

Listing the developments made to by the government , the Minister noted that a Commission on Disappearances was appointed on 12 August 2013 for a term of six months to conduct inquiries and investigations as necessary, and to submit a report containing its findings and recommendations. The Commission's mandate has been extended to12 August 2014 in order to undertake a comprehensive inquiry and complete its work.

Non-Summary Inquiry commenced with regard to the Five Students of Trincomalee case on 9 September 2013 and as at present, the evidence of 14 witnesses is concluded.

With regard to the Muttur (ACF) case where 17 aid workers were killed in 2006, following instructions by the Attorney-General, action has been taken to identify and record statements of army commandos and civil society members.

As recommended by the LLRC, the Government has mobilized funding for restitution and the provision of compensatory relief for those affected by the conflict.

Land is one of the most complex and sensitive residual issues of the conflict and continues to be addressed, the Minister said.

The former High Security Zones (HSZ) have ceased to exist. Palaly cantonment is now the only area in which some security restrictions remain although civilians have unrestricted access to Palaly airport and KKS harbor.

As at January 2014 the Government has released 19,322 acres of private land and 2,518 acres of State owned land in the Northern Province which were hitherto used by the military.

He said Sri Lanka values the sentiments expressed in the Council by countries which have similar experiences with regard to reconciliation, that Sri Lanka be provided with the requisite time and space to address their own process domestically in a comprehensive manner as opposed to those who continue to pay disproportionate attention to Sri Lanka, based on agendas driven by political motives.

In conclusion the Sri Lankan envoy said the High Commissioner and the OHCHR must remain transparent, objective and be guided solely by the mandate given by the UN and at this juncture if the initiatives taken on Sri Lanka by the OHCHR is to be the basis on which the country is to be judged, it will clearly be a travesty of justice.

Full text of Minister's Address

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