Saturday, March 14, 2009

High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Statement is unfounded and lacks credibility

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights wishes to express its strong
sense of surprise and dismay at the tone and content of the press release issued today (Friday 13) by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Especially in the context that when High Commissioner Navanetham Pillai met Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights on 04 March in Geneva during the High Level Segment of the UN Human Rights Council, the detailed figures relied upon in the statement were never raised. Neither did the Office of the High Commissioner discuss with, nor did it seek the views of, the Sri Lankan Permanent Representative to the UN at Geneva on the highly questionable, unverified and unsubstantiated figures used in the statement. The claims of 2,800 civilians being killed in a 7-week period from 20 January and a further 7,000 being injured are totally unacceptable and are rejected as being no more than the repetition of propaganda emanating from uncleared areas of the Wanni. The Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights deplores the apparently unprofessional manner in which the Office of the High Commissioner has conducted itself in uncritically repeating information from unverified and unnamed “credible sources”. Unlike many of the senior officials of the United Nations, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who have called on the LTTE to let the civilians escape to safety, the High Commissioner’s omission in not unequivocally demanding the free movement of civilians, is most regrettable. This is the main issue involving human rights of civilians caught up in the conflict that should have commanded her attention, but this issue of prime importance has not been commented on. The Ministry also notes with regret that despite repeated assurances from the Government that the security forces were instructed to respect the no-fire zone and that they do not use long range weapons, the Office of the High Commissioner still continues to repeat unfounded claims of civilian casualties due to shelling. The Government of Sri Lanka will place all these facts before the High Commissioner at the earliest possible opportunity and seek an immediate clarification from her Office.