14 September 2015 13:36:42 IST

Lanka probe findings of ‘serious nature’: UN rights chief

Lankan government has five days to make its response in writing

The findings of the investigation into Sri Lanka’s alleged war crimes during the final phase of the country’s civil war are of the “most serious nature”, the chief of the UN rights body said here today.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein said the report on the UNHRC’s investigation would be released on September 16 along with his recommendations, while speaking at the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which got underway here.

“Six years ago we were confronted with serious violations and loss of civilian life in the last month of Sri Lanka’s long civil war,” he said.

Zeid said the UNHRC was deeply engaged in the need for accountability as a necessary step towards reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

“On Wednesday, I will release the report of the comprehensive investigation as mandated by UNHRC resolution of March 2014. Its findings are of the most serious nature,” the UNHRC chief said.

Zeid said he welcomed the vision and the commitment shown by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena to address rights concerns.

“But this council owes it to Sri Lankans and for its own credibility to ensure an accountability process that produces results and decisively moves beyond the failures of the past to bring in institutional needs to guarantee no recurrence,” Zeid said.

The UNHRC conducted its own international investigation on the alleged war crimes as then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government resisted it claiming the probe was an attack on Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.

Rights groups claim that the Sri Lankan military killed 40,000 civilians in the final months of the three decade-long brutal ethnic conflict with the LTTE that ended in 2009.

Sirisena’s government has shown an attitude of cooperation with the UN systems in contrast to Rajapaksa, seeking to address some of the concerns of the island’s Tamil minority.

This resulted in the investigation report being delayed six months by the UNHRC.

Sri Lanka has opted for a local mechanism for rights accountability which has now gained support from the US, the main sponsor of three successive anti-Sri Lanka resolutions in the UN rights body.

The US is set to bring a resolution supporting a domestic investigation unlike previous ones in which it insisted on an international probe.

The draft, sponsored by the US and other core group of countries, is called ‘Human Rights in Sri Lanka, with focus on government efforts to provide reconciliation and accountability and based on findings of OHCHR report’

The OHCHR report was handed over to Colombo on Friday night. The Sri Lankan government has five days to make its response in writing.

While India had supported US-sponsored resolutions on Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2013, it abstained from voting in 2014 stating that it is “India’s firm belief that adopting an intrusive approach that undermines national sovereignty and institutions is counter-productive.”

The issue would be a tricky terrain for India as DMK chief M Karunanidhi has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to back the US-sponsored resolution which has reportedly been watered-down seeking a domestic inquiry on war crimes.