GENEVA (AFP) – Sri Lanka on Saturday angrily rejected accusations by the UN rights chief that it was sabotaging a war crimes probe into the country’s brutal separatist war, calling the charges “extremely regrettable.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday accused Colombo of creating “a wall of fear” and repression to scuttle the UN-mandated probe by subjecting civil society groups and rights activists to surveillance, harassment and other forms of intimidation.
But on Saturday Sri Lanka denied the charge.
“The Government of Sri Lanka, its departments and agencies made no attempt whatsoever to prevent bona fide witnesses from submitting information to the investigation team,” Colombo’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Ravinatha Aryasinha, said in a statement.
“Neither was any attempt made to deter and intimidate individuals from submitting evidence. The submissions that the Investigation would have received by now would stand to prove this fact,” he added.
The UN Human Rights Council last March ordered an international investigation into allegations that up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed by government troops in the final months of fighting in the civil war, which ended in 2009.
Sri Lanka, which denies any civilian was killed by its security forces, has repeatedly refused to cooperate with the probe, insisting a domestic commission of inquiry can do the job.
“The government of Sri Lanka has refused point blank to cooperate with the investigation despite being explicitly requested by the Human Rights Council to do so,” Zeid said.
In his statement, Aryasinha said that his government’s “categorical rejection of the investigation established by the Human Rights Council is not tantamount to concealing information.”
“The Government of Sri Lanka has steadfastly maintained that it owes to the country’s dignity not to subject its people to an investigation that does not conform to even the minimum requisites of justice and fairplay.
“This position has been overwhelmingly endorsed by the national Parliament. It is a principled position which the Government chose to take that was supported by many countries in the Council.”
The Sri Lankan government charged earlier this week that the probe had been “unprofessional” and that its approach was “selective and biased” – accusations Zeid flatly rejected.
The UN has estimated up to 100,000 people may have been killed in the separatist conflict between 1972 and 2009.