The Government will respond to the United Nations Panel report on alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka next week.
A note to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon signed by External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris will be sent through Sri Lanka’s Permanent Mission at the United Nations in New York. It will set out the official position of Sri Lanka. A more comprehensive response which addresses the contents of the Panel report will follow later.
Arising out of the report, the government has also initiated action on a number of other issues. Main among them is the extension by six months of the mandate of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). President Mahinda Rajapaksa issued a warrant dated May 15 2010 when the Commission was originally appointed.
It was due to expire on May 15, 2011 before which the Commission’s final report was due. A gazette notification to be issued will extend the term till November 15, 2011. This is to enable the Commission, if it so wishes, to address issues raised in the UN Panel report.
However, the Panel has held that the LLRC’s mandate “does not satisfy international standards for clarity in the mandate of an accountability mechanism, which should explicitly refer to the power to investigate violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, committed by any party in a conflict, including the State or its agents.”
The Government is also to relax several provisions in the ongoing Emergency Regulations as well as remove some provisions from the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). An immediate study is under way to determine what these provisions are.
The government’s response to the UN Panel’s report will provide reasons why it does not recognize the body. The government is also to take up the position that the report is “highly biased” and had been released at a time when a domestic process – the LLRC – is under way. It will also contain a protest over UNSG Ban’s decision to release the report.
However, the initial response is also to strike a conciliatory note over Ban’s remarks that he cannot act unilaterally to appoint an international probe without the consent of the country concerned.
A more detailed report to be sent later will incorporate the measures the government has taken during both the pre- and post-war period. This will include development measures, rehabilitation of the displaced and re-settlement among others.
With the likelihood of the issues arising out of the UN Panel’s report coming up at June sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the government has tasked Plantation Industries Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe to lead the Sri Lanka delegation. He has been mandated to take up human rights issues, a responsibility that came under the Ministry of External Affairs.