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Sri Lanka Questions Independence of U.N. Human Rights Boss

Sri Lanka Questions Independence of U.N.

Kotte – Sri Lanka questioned the independence of the human rights office of the United Nations on Wednesday, a day after the United States asked the U.N. to investigate human rights violations by the Sri Lankan government. The U.S. resolution calls for the U.N.’s Human Rights Council to investigate “past abuses and to examine more recent attacks on journalists, human rights defenders, and religious minorities.”

The past violations relate to Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war with Tamil separatists. The resolution also raises concern over continuing violations, including sexual violence, enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, torture and threats against human rights defenders and journalists.

But Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, G.L. Peiris, told a Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva that his country doubted the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the office of the U.N.’s human rights chief. “We remain deeply concerned that the lack of financial independence of the OHCHR leads to the erosion of independence in its overall functioning,” Peiris said.

The commission pays disproportionate attention to some countries, he said, and ignores human rights violations in other parts of the world. The chief human rights officer at the U.N., Navi Pillay, is a South African of Tamil ancestry. The U.N., through two U.S.-sponsored resolutions in the last two years, has asked Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), a local panel appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. But the West and rights groups say Rajapaksa’s government has failed to address rights abuses and pursue a lasting political settlement. (Reuters)

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