Sri Lanka: UN rights chief hails probe into extrajudicial killings but voices concerns

7 November 2006

The top United Nations human rights official today welcomed Sri Lanka's establishment of a commission of inquiry into extrajudicial killings and disappearances, but expressed concern that shortcomings in the national legal system could hamper its effectiveness.

The top United Nations human rights official today welcomed Sri Lanka's establishment of a commission of inquiry into extrajudicial killings and disappearances, but expressed concern that shortcomings in the national legal system could hamper its effectiveness.

While voicing hope that the commission will see the perpetrators of serious rights abuses brought to justice, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour stressed that such a body can only investigate a selection of cases, and a broader international mechanism is still needed to monitor and ultimately prevent human rights violations in the longer term.

Among the shortcomings she underlined the absence of any legal tradition of establishing command responsibility for human rights violations, and noted that many recommendations of past commissions of inquiry, including those into disappearances, had not yet been fully implemented.

“It will be critically important for the Commission to establish not only individual responsibility for crimes, but the broader patterns and context in which they occur,” she said in a statement.

Ms. Arbour thanked the Government for inviting her to provide advice on the terms of reference for the Commission and expressed satisfaction that many of the comments by her Office had been taken into account, including the need for witness protection and steps to increase transparency.

She also noted that the Government had invited a group of international observers to monitor, provide advice as requested, and report on the Commission’s work.

 

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