The panel of experts being set up by the United Nations as part of an accountability process following the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka will not infringe on the country’s sovereignty, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.
Mr. Ban told journalists that the establishment of the panel is in line with a joint statement he issued with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his visit to the country last May after Government forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
“This joint statement contained a commitment related to ensuring an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws,” he said in response to questions from reporters at his monthly press conference at UN Headquarters in New York.
“The panel I am establishing will advise me on the standards, benchmarks and parameters, based on international experience, that must guide any accountability process such as the one mentioned in the joint statement. Now this panel will report to me directly and not to another body.”
Mr. Ban said a recent letter on the subject he received from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) indicated “there is a misunderstanding on the nature and purpose” of the experts’ panel.
“I am convinced that it is well within my power as Secretary-General of the United Nations to ask such a body to furnish me with their advice of this nature. This does not in any way infringe on the sovereignty of Sri Lanka.”
Last week the UN chief voiced concern about the lack of progress on political reconciliation, the treatment of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the setting up of an accountability process since he reached the joint statement with Mr. Rajapaksa.
Earlier this month Mr. Ban had what he described as “a frank and honest exchange of views” by telephone with Mr. Rajapaksa, who was re-elected President in an election in late January. Since the ballot was held the runner-up candidate, General Sarath Fonseka, has been arrested and faces trial.
B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, is slated to soon head to Sri Lanka for talks with senior officials in the Government.