Aug 19, Colombo: Sri Lanka will not allow the United Nations team investigating alleged war crimes committed during the last seven years of the three-decade long armed conflict with Tamil Tiger terrorists, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said Tuesday.
The President said the team of UN investigators appointed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay will not be allowed into the country.
"We will not allow them into the country," Rajapaksa told the Foreign Correspondents' Association, when he met the journalists at Temple Trees today.
He said that any cases of people missing, or any other allegations of crimes committed during the war had to be investigated through the local panel as he took measures to strengthen the domestic investigation mechanisms.
Earlier the President announced the appointment of two more members to the panel advising the domestic Commission appointed by him to probe the disappearances of persons during the conflict.
This is the first time the President has directly announced Sri Lanka's refusal to allow the UN investigators.
"We do not accept the probe. We are against it," the President said adding that Sri Lanka will not cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council.
Sri Lankan government has refused to accept the probe mandated by the UN Human Rights Council and maintains that it is an unnecessary and unethical intrusion into the island nations' sovereignty.
The President however, assured that Sri Lanka will fully cooperate with the other UN agencies.
"However, we continue to engage with the UN system. We have not walked out like some other countries," President Rajapaksa said.
The decision not to disclose the names of persons who give evidence before the Panel is totally unfair as Sri Lanka will not get an opportunity to cross examine them, Minister of External Affairs Prof. G L Peiris said.
"They are judges in their own cause. We do not recognize the jurisdiction or authority to do this investigation in the first place", he said.
"Sri Lanka could not accept such a prejudiced investigation. The UNHRC has not been known for its consistency and they changed decisions due to political reasons. Many member countries are disillusioned over this", Minister Peiris added.
Earlier this month Pillay said visiting Sri Lanka is not necessary for the United Nations to conduct an effective investigation into the alleged war crimes in response to Sri Lankan government's defiant stance that it will not allow any international investigator to enter the country to collect evidence.
"There is a wealth of information outside of Sri Lanka which can be tapped into," Pillay has said.
Sri Lankan government strongly criticized Pillay's remarks as a clear indication of personal bias.
"It is evidence of an attempt to influence the investigation process and make it follow a preconceived trajectory," the External Affairs Ministry said displaying the deep mistrust Sri Lanka placed in the High Commissioner.
"Prejudice and lack of objectivity on issues pertaining to Sri Lanka displayed by the High Commissioner Pillay in the past are unfortunate," the Ministry said.
However, the office of the High Commissioner, in a recent statement said the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka, based in Geneva will continue to seek to engage with the Sri Lankan government.
(Photos by Sudath Silva)