Monday, September 21, 2009

Sri Lankan video investigations not independent: UN envoy

Click 'play' to listen to the report

RA: Recent shocking British television footage, allegedly showing government soldiers killing unarmed, bound and naked prisoners, has prompted calls for a probe into possible war crimes. The Sri Lankan government says the video is fake and has released the results of what it calls four independent investigations. But not everyone is convinced.

ALSTON: Well, the Sri Lankan Government has recently produced a statement by four experts. The requirement under international law when there is an ostensibly valid allegation that a serious human rights violation has been committed, is to carry out a thorough and impartial investigation of the allegations. What the government has done, is to produce analysis by two of the members of its own army - in other words, the very body that is accused of carrying out the crime and perhaps unsurprisingly, these two army officials say that they don't think the video is convincing. They have also hired an academic, a Sri Lankan, who has done work for the government before. I have no quibble with his qualifications or with what he said, but it's still a very unsatisfactory approach when it comes to showing real independence and impartiality. And finally, they have used the analysis of another gentleman who is apparently based in Australia, but of Sri Lankan origin, who claims to have and appears to have a significant technical credentials in this area. He first wrote an opinion piece in one of the Sri Lankan daily newspapers asserting that this (video) was a fake, based on his own examinations. The government then took him up, employed him as an expert to provide a more detailed report, but the government has not showed us any of these four reports. They have shown us brief summaries of them and the bottom line is that you have got very serious allegations and you have got a handful of experts who are extremely close to the government who provide no sense of an impartial investigation of the type required.

RA: Well, if the government were to turn to you for advice, what would you suggest the Sri Lankan Government do?

ALSTON: Well, what is normally done in a situation like this is to constitute some independent group of experts. In other words, the government or the United Nations or some other third party would designate experts who would look at the tapes and make an assessment of it. The Sri Lankan Government has systematically refused to do that. They have not issued an invitation to me or to other UN actors who undertake this sort of investigation. And so, the path forward I think is very clear rather than bringing in a few home grown locals to support the local football team basically.

RA: And just very briefly, in an earlier interview with us, you said you would like to visit Sri Lanka yourself to investigate the video. Has the government agreed to your request?

ALSTON: No, there's been no response. I have been requesting the government for a very long time now to undertake a visit, because there have been quite a number of allegations of killings undertaken during the closing months of the civil war, and the government is not interested again, it seems, in any sort of independent investigation of those allegations.

© Radio Australia

Related Links:
Disprove analysis on Channel 4 video clip, says expert - Sunday Observer

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Monday, September 21, 2009

UN refugee envoy to visit Sri Lanka

The United Nations is sending a top official to Sri Lanka this week to press for the speedy resettlement of 300,000 war-displaced, officials said Monday, the second UN visit in as many weeks.

Walter Kalin, the UN Secretary-General's envoy for refugee rights, will arrive late Wednesday for a five-day visit that includes a tour to camps holding tens of thousands of refugees, Sri Lanka's Human Rights Ministry said.

His trip comes a week after the visit of the UN's political chief, Lynn Pascoe, who expressed concern over the plight of refugees and also urged Sri Lanka to investigate rights abuses during the final stages of the civil war.

"Mr. Kalin will meet with senior government officials, international aid agencies, including UN staff, and also visit some sites holding internally displaced people (IDPs)," a ministry official said.

UN sources here said Kalin would press for improved conditions for the Tamil civilians held in internment camps.

"He will follow up promises made by the government to resettle the IDPs at the earliest," said a UN official who declined to be named.

The displaced are being held in "welfare villages" and the government says they cannot be allowed freedom of movement until authorities finish screening them for remaining Tamil rebels.

Pascoe last week said the Sri Lankan government was not making sufficiently fast progress in implementing a deal between Colombo and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in May.

The agreement was for the speedy resettlement of the civilians who were displaced after the end of fighting between troops and Tamil Tiger rebels.

"We have not seen the progress we expected from that agreement," Pascoe said.

Pascoe also urged Sri Lanka to set up a mechanism for "truth seeking" into alleged excesses by government forces during the final stages of the war.

Kalin toured Sri Lanka in April, just weeks before Sri Lankan troops crushed Tamil Tiger rebels who had been waging a guerrilla war for a homeland since 1972.


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