Will Prince Zeid adopt a different approach?
Will the change in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
top seat alter its policy towards Sri Lanka?
Prince Zeid al Hussein of
Jordan will take over as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
on September 1
South African Navaneethan Pillay who has roots in the Tamil
community, is due to retire in August end, paving the way for Prince
Zeid al Hussein of Jordan, a veteran diplomat and campaigner for
international justice to take over her post.
Prince Zeid became the first UN human rights chief from the Muslim
and Arab world following his unanimous election on Monday by the UN
General Assembly. The 193-member world body burst into applause when
assembly President John Ashe banged his gavel signifying approval by
consensus of the Prince's nomination to the UNHRC's top seat by none
other than UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The top diplomat, currently Amman's ambassador to the United Nations,
will take over as UN high commissioner for human rights on September 1,
replacing Pillay whose conduct towards Sri Lanka has been highly
The UN Secretary General nominated Zeid, who holds a PhD from
Cambridge University, for a four-year mandate last week. However
earlier, Zeid was a rival candidate for secretary-general's post when
Ban was chosen. Zeid had praised the outgoing current UNHRC chief Pillay
"for her courageous endeavours" and pledged "to build on her noteworthy
Isn't that an early indication that Zeid will have the same attitude
Pillay had had on Sri Lanka. But Pillay's stance was understandable as
she was more sympathetic towards Tamils due to her affiliation and was
often influenced by the Tamil Diaspora. Being as Asian who understands
our problems better, Sri Lanka would expect a better rapport with Jordan
"I am going to be the first high commissioner from the Asian
continent and from the Muslim and Arab worlds," the prince said. "This
reflects the commitment of the international community towards this
important dossier, and this important commitment to push it forward in
this continent (Asia) as well as in other regions of the world," he was
quoted as saying.
Zeid had stressed the independence of the high commissioner's job
which he said "requires wisdom and a high level of coordination and
communication with different governments as well as with civil society
and all the UN agencies".
The European Union's Thomas Mayr-Harting, one of many regional
representatives to welcome his selection, said the Prince's "proven
track record in the promotion and protection of human rights, the fight
against impunity as well as his exceptional diplomatic experience will
be an invaluable asset" in his new job.
The Aluthgama-bound passenger train which was blown up by an
LTTE bomb in Dehiwela. (File photo)
Zeid spent five years as an officer in the Jordanian desert police,
the successor to the Arab Legion, before joining the UN protection force
in former Yugoslavia from 1994-1996. In his long diplomatic career, he
has been ambassador to the United Nations twice as well as ambassador to
the United States from 2007-2010.
The Prince is a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court,
has served as president of its Assembly of States Parties, and has
spoken out often against sexual violence.
We earnestly hope that Prince Zeid would not talk only about human
rights of the LTTE terrorists killed as Navi Pillay has been doing.
As an Asian, Prince Zeid has a better knowledge on terrorism in the
region and sufferings the people across Asia gad undergone. In this
context, Prince Zeid may not be rigid as Pillay who has conducted
herself in a high-handed manner, overstepping her mandate as the UNHRC
It is time Prince Zeid reviews certain controversial decisions of
Pillay and prove his transparency. Names of the three experts on the
investigative team in the probe led by the Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the alleged abuses during the
final phase of the battle against terrorism have been announced. But it
would be more appropriate if Zeid takes a closer look at highly
questionable decisions of Pillay and begins a fresh dialogue with Sri
Three experts include the former President of Finland Martti
Ahtisaari, former New Zealand's Governor Silvia Cartwright and Pakistani
lawyer Asma Jahangir. They will be appointed to the panel and will be
supporting and advising the team that is led by Senior UN Official
Sandra Beidas. The team appointments are now complete and they are
scheduled to have their first meeting mid next month.
Sri Lanka has flatly rejected the UNHRC move and would not entertain
any of the investigators on our soil. Most importantly, Parliament has
rejected such a move with an overwhelming majority. Hence, no outside
force can challenge the mandate given by the people's representatives in
As usual, Pillay has blown her own trumpet by giving character
certificates to her three-member panel of which the conduct of two are
highly questionable. Speaking on the three experts Pillay had said, "I
am proud that three such distinguished experts have agreed to assist
this important and challenging investigation. Each of them brings not
only great experience and expertise, but the highest standards of
integrity, independence, impartiality and objectivity to this task."
Pillay has once again encouraged the Government to cooperate fully
with the OHCHR-led investigation. "It will help shed light on the truth,
and advance accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka," the High
Commissioner has stated. Furthermore she has emphasized the fact that
the investigation will continue undeterred even if such cooperation was
Why is Ban Ki-moon and Pillay making repeated appeals to the
Government to cooperate with them by allowing the panel members to tour
Sri Lanka when the Parliament of the country has turned down such
facility? They are acutely aware that such investigation could be
conducted here only with the consent of the country in question - Sri
Lanka. Hence the Government has rejected such investigation; Pillay's
team has no provision to tour Sri Lanka.
The three experts are due to play a supportive and advisory role,
providing advice and guidance as well as independent verification
throughout the investigation that will be led by senior UN official
Sandra Beidas who has been appointed as the Coordinator of the OHCHR
investigation team. The investigation team will consist of 12 staff to
which includes investigators, forensics experts, a gender specialist, a
legal analyst and various other staff.
Hence they have no provision to tour Sri Lanka, they will not be able
to file a comprehensive report. Instead, they will talk to Tiger
sympathisers and LTTE rump to make a one-sided report to suit the whims
and fancies of Pillay and Western nosey parkers.
As expected, the two godfathers of the UNHRC Resolution against Sri
Lanka has welcomed the appointment of the panel even before it makes the
first move. United States has welcomed the announcement of experts, who
will advise the team probing the alleged human rights violations in Sri
Lanka during the last months of civil war in 2009.
"The US welcomes UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay's
announcement of the distinguished experts who will advise the panel
conducting the international investigation into the alleged human rights
violations and related crimes in Sri Lanka, as called for in the March
2014 Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka," State Department
spokesperson Marie Harf had said.
The United States stands ready to assist Sri Lanka in facilitating
progress on these issues, she assured. But if the US is sincerely
interested in supporting Sri Lanka's successful forward march since the
dawn of peace, they could do it in numerous other ways rather than
exerting undue pressure and meddling in internal matters of the country
under the guise of protecting human rights.
Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, William Hague too has joined
the bandwagon, welcoming the appointment of the team of experts. Hague
has said that he welcomes the investigation team and said UK has always
supported calls for the investigation.
"I welcome Navi Pillay's announcement on the appointment of experts
to the Sri Lanka investigation established by the March Human Rights
Council. The UK has always supported calls for this investigation and
played a key role in securing I," he was quoted as saying.
The British Foreign Secretary has claimed that the investigation is
an important step in establishing the truth and facilitating
reconciliation within Sri Lanka. But if the UK is genuinely interested
in the well-being of the Tamils in the North, they could take more
tangible contribution rather than harping on the human rights of the
LTTE terrorists killed in action. It is a pity that countries such as
the US and UK have forgotten the circumstances which led the Government
to embark on the humanitarian operation and that it had saved lives of
over half a million people.
When lives of 21 million Sri Lankans were threatened by the LTTE
terror, none of these godfathers of human rights ever uttered a word of
comfort. The entire nation, irrespective of ethnic and religious
affiliations, suffered untold hardships without knowing when the next
massive LTTE bomb would take their lives.
It was an agony we all had experienced for 27 long years. If not for
the bold political decisions by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and
sacrifices made by the Security Forces, we would still have been
subjected to LTTE terror. Now that we made our own battle with the
support of only a handful of friendly countries, there are enough and
more experts who try to pontificate us on human rights and
reconciliation. Where were Navi Pillay and the UNHRC when the entire
nation was at the receiving end of LTTE terror?
Once the LTTE was vanquished and the peace has been restored after
liberating about half a million people from the clutches of LTTE terror,
they have emerged from nowhere to advocate us on human rights.
It is not because they care about human rights but because they could
use it as an effective tool to meddle in internal affairs of countries
which does not dance to the Western melody.