Following his decision yesterday to recall the top United Nations official in Colombo and close the UN office there, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called again on the Sri Lankan Government to take urgent action to normalize conditions around the office so the world body can continue its vital work.
The UN office in the Sri Lankan capital has been the scene of recent protests against the panel set up last month by the Secretary-General to advise him on accountability issues relating to alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict that ended last year between the Government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The UN has repeatedly clarified that the three-member panel is not tasked with investigating individual allegations of misconduct. Rather, it is a follow-up to the Joint Statement issued by the Secretary-General and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa after the UN chief visited the island country in May 2009.
“The Secretary-General believes the strong reaction to his establishment of a Panel of Experts on accountability in Sri Lanka is not warranted,” his spokesperson said in a statement.
The statement added that the panel has been set up to take forward the objectives of the Joint Statement, including the further fostering of reconciliation and related issues as well as reflecting the commitment by Sri Lanka to the promotion and protection of human rights and the importance of accountability in order to continue the strengthening of peace and development in that country.
Yesterday, Mr. Ban announced he is recalling the UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Neil Buhne, to New York for consultations, and closing the Regional Centre in Colombo of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in light of the evolving situation on the ground.