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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights hails President's initiatives

GENEVA: The High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour speaking at the opening of the third session of the Human Rights Council, welcomed the initiative taken by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in establishing the Independent International Group of Eminent Persons and the appointment of the Commission of Inquiry to probe killings and disappearances.

In her up date Arbour stated: "I am pleased to note the fruitful cooperation between the Government and my Office with regard to this initiative and welcome the incorporation of the majority of OHCHR's suggestions into the terms of reference.

I hope the Commission of Inquiry will prove effective in bringing the perpetrators of serious human rights violations to justice.

I would also like to reiterate my Office's readiness to assist the Government of Sri Lanka in addressing the protection of human rights and in particular the protection of civilians, who have continued to be the primary victims of recent violence".

The delegation of Finland on behalf of the European Union, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada and Switzerland also welcomed the President's initiative in appointing the National Commission of Inquiry and the IIGEP. Canada, the UK and the Netherlands stated they will be making nominations of experts for the IIGEP soon.

Sarala Fernando, Permanent Representative of the Sri Lanka Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, on behalf of the Sri Lankan delegation to the Human Rights Council Sessions in Geneva, responding to the update of the High Commissioner and to the comments made by other delegations, thanked the High Commissioner for her up date and appreciated her statement on November 6 welcoming the establishment of the IIGEP and her encouraging remarks during this session.

The Ambassador reiterated that the Government has always remained fully committed to further peace talks with the LTTE without preconditions.

She said "it is our hope that the international community will strengthen our hand by applying pressure on the LTTE to change its violent ways and to come into a negotiated settlement within the contours of democracy.

As a democracy since independence, Sri Lanka has always been reproached, hence Sri Lanka stands by its pledge to brief the Council in a comprehensive manner.

Efforts continue towards formulating a Constitutional framework for a negotiated settlement.

Quoting the Foreign Minister, the Ambassador stated "there is some cause for optimism because for the first time, President Rajapaksa is working on finding consensus of everyone through the All Party Conference and a Committee of Experts to find a solution ... For the first time, there is a window of opportunity and the UNP (Opposition) leader has stated that his support will be forthcoming in resolving the National question".

Replying to a statement made by the Swiss delegation with regard to child recruitment by the Karuna Group, the Ambassador reminded the Swiss delegation not to divert attention from the fact that the main offender on child soldiers has been identified by the UN, by the listing of the LTTE as amongst the worst offenders in the world.

The Ambassador referred to the request made to Allan Rock to provide any evidence on the issue of alleged support being extended to the Karuna Group and referred to the Government's zero tolerance policy on child soldiers.

Commenting on the humanitarian access, Fernando stated that the Government continues to provide essential supplies by its own efforts to all people affected by the conflict.

She referred to the Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Systems which was established by the Government and all stakeholders including UN agencies and ICRC.

She stated that President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced his intention to open the Muhamalai entry/exist point at A9 highway to enable the transport of essential supplies to the Jaffna Peninsula.

She pointed out that the Government has recently proposed the creation of safe places for internally displaced persons in Vakarai and the Government continues to receive and provide shelter for large numbers of persons escaping from LTTE controlled areas in the East.

Replying to the delegation of Canada which expressed concern on 200,000 IDPs, the Ambassador replied that only a few weeks ago that 300,000 persons in Sri Lanka were displaced by the seasonal floods which might have been put into the perspective figures on IDPs that are often quoted.

She also stated that the Government, through its own resources, had taken care of these persons, arranged shelter and food for them and even financial assisted them to reconstruct their damaged homes upon their return.

 

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