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Sri Lanka confident of facing UNHRC

Sri Lanka is confident at facing international pressure at the March sitting of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Human Rights Envoy Mahinda Samarasinghe said. Speaking to Ceylon Today, Plantation Minister Samarasinghe said Sri Lanka has so far been able to defer any move against the country’s human rights record at the UNHRC, and added he was “not worried” about the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) being discussed at the body in Geneva.

“We have prepared ourselves for whatever happens, and we are willing to share whatever information we have with the UNHRC,” Samarasinghe said, adding that Sri Lanka has so far been able to counter any moves by the international community to float a resolution against it.

Samarasinghe’s comments come a day after it was revealed that Stephen Rapp, United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, will be visiting Sri Lanka over the coming weeks.

“I will be making a statement to the council during the plenary, and we assume there will be other member states that would refer to the LLRC report during the times when they have the floor,” Samarasinghe said.

He added he was aware of the visit by Rapp through media reports, but said that no official communication has taken place so far.

Rapp is expected to hold high-level meetings with the government, opposition and civil society organizations on the human rights situation in the island and the post-war issues of accountability.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of External Affairs remained mum about the protocol or visa issues in place for Rapp, and official spokespersons for the Ministry said they were not aware of the visit.

Rapp is the key official in the Obama Administration on war crimes around the world, and successfully led the prosecution against former Liberian President Charles Taylor on war crimes charges and for crimes against humanity.

Sri Lanka has been using both diplomatic channels and direct visits by Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris over the past year to lobby in favour of the country in the instance that a resolution against Sri Lanka would be floated at the UNHRC, and has been paying special attention to the developing world countries, including those in South America and Africa.
Sri Lanka has repeatedly pitched the LLRC report as a successful mechanism to explore the final phases of the war with the LTTE, but international human rights monitors have called the process inadequate and one-sided.

The report, however, for the first time admitted that there were disappearances of some former LTTE combatants and suspected cadres who surrendered to the army, and called for investigations and prosecutions for those responsible.
A Panel of Experts appointed by the United Nations Secretary General found in early 2011 that there were “credible evidences” of war crimes that had taken place during the final stages of the war but Colombo has vehemently refused any form of international investigation or interference.

2012-01-23/ By Dinidu de Alwis/Ceylon Today Online

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