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Lanka miffed with UN over rights panel

June 21, 2010 19:03 IST

The Sri Lankan government has slammed the decision of the United Nations to set up a panel of experts to advice Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on the human rights situation in the country, saying it was 'unwarranted' since Colombo has already formed a mechanism to address accountability issues.

"The proposed panel of experts was unwarranted since Sri Lanka has already set in motion its local mechanism to address accountability issues, said Minister of External Affairs G L Peiris.

In May, Sri Lanka set up a 'Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission' to probe alleged human rights abuses during the ethnic conflict, but has opposed the establishment of an international tribunal. Ban is expected to announce the names of experts for an advisory panel. These experts will counsel him on accountability issues that arise with regard to alleged human rights abuses that took place in the months leading to the Lankan military defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May 2009.

During talks last week with B Lynn Pascoe, the UN under secretary-general for political affairs, Peiris expressed surprise over the need for an external body to advise the Secretary General on human rights issues in Sri Lanka.

The foreign minister told the top UN diplomat that there was ample room within the UN system to get such expertise, if the need arose. Pascoe had told reporters on Thursday, at the conclusion of the two-day visit, that the Secretary General would make an announcement on the proposed panel in the next few days.

"I think there have been many misunderstandings down through the times on what this advisory panel is really going to do," Pascoe had said. "There is really no cause for any great concern. I think it will be very useful for the Secretary-General as the process goes along. And I hope should the Sri Lankan side decide, it could also be useful for them," the top UN official was quoted as saying by the official website.

The UN diplomat had met President Rajapaksa, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Attorney General Mohan Peiris.

He also visited areas around Mullaitivu town in the north, where the last battles in the ethnic conflict were waged in May 2009.

T V Sriram In Colombo
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