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Navi Pillay's Troika of experts have least interest in Sri Lanka

The Troika of experts appointed by UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay to advise the UN investigation team on Sri Lanka seems to have been hand picked by the High Commissioner herself in her mission to punish Sri Lanka's security forces, a senior diplomat opined.

Asma Jahangir Dame Silvia Cartwright Martti Ahtisaari

Speaking to Sunday Observer he said the news of the selection of Asma Jahangir, a leading Pakistani lawyer and a minority rights activist by the UNHR High Commissioner came soon after the Beruwala and Aluthgama incidents which received unprecedented coverage from international media.

Asma Jahangir is one of three experts appointed by Navi Pillay to advise her team appointed to look into alleged human rights violations during the war on terrorism against the LTTE and after.

Supposedly hailing from Pakistan's Ahmadi minority, Jahangir's father had been imprisoned on several occasions 'for his outspoken views, which included denouncing the Pakistani government for genocide during their military action in what is now Bangladesh' web sources reveal.

Jahangir as an activist and former Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan had been organising protests on behalf of women rights, child rights as well as persecuted religious minorities.

She was once UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Arbitrary and Summary Executions and later served as a UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

"If their personal biases would affect the work that they have been called upon to perform, that will be detrimental to Sri Lanka's interest and if so we could only guess that their findings will be a foregone conclusion, he said.

The second expert chosen by Pillay is former President of Finland and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Martti Ahtisaari, who has also served as a UN diplomat and mediator.

After major riots erupted in Kosovo in March 2004 in their fight for independence from Serbia, in 2005 then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed a senior Norwegian diplomat to produce a comprehensive report on the situation. The Norwegian diplomat recommended the start of status talks. Later Martti Ahtisaari was appointed by Annan to oversee these talks. In 2007, he presented a report with proposals for an independent Kosovo.

While Britain France and the United States endorsed the proposal, Russia rejected it on the grounds that the solution had been imposed on the parties.

The senior diplomat said it is questionable as to why Pillay goes on to pick people of such background. Jahangir is a controversial person, just like Yasmin Sooka and Darusman. "She is a persona non-grata to at least two countries. Martti Ahtisaari on the other hand has been instrumental in the Kosovo cessation."

The only expert the High Commissioner has picked without so much of a tainted past is Dame Silvia Cartwright, former Governor-General and High Court judge of New Zealand.

She was one of the two international judges who took part in Cambodia's War crimes Tribunal where she served as a trial judge. The tribunal was founded to investigate the slaughter of 1.7 million Cambodians by Khmer Rouge guerrilla's and bring those guilty of crimes against humanity to book.

Cartwright is a former member of the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

'The troika appointed by the High Commissioner will play a supportive and advisory role, providing advice and guidance as well as independent verification throughout the investigation,' the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights website said.

The High Commissioner was quoted in the website saying "Each of them brings not only great experience and expertise, but the highest standards of integrity, independence, impartiality and objectivity to this task."

The Investigation Team with whom they will work will consist of 12 staff, including investigators, forensics experts, a gender specialist, a legal analyst and various other staff with specialised skills. It will be operational for a period of 10 months (up to mid-April 2015).

"By judging the way it is taking shape so far, one cannot help but think this is being engineered and designed having anything but Sri Lanka and its people's interest in mind. How much faith can we have on their investigation and its outcome?" the senior diplomat questioned.

He said if the international community wanted to help Sri Lanka, it should assist the domestic process of implementing the LLRC recommendations and the National Human Rights Action Plan which aspires to reconcile the communities and create a trilingual Sri Lanka, without putting together intrusive external investigation mechanisms and conspiring to destabilise the country.

"Once again, I encourage the Government and people of Sri Lanka to cooperate fully with this investigation which can help shed light on the truth, and advance accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka," the High Commissioner had said. She added that the investigation would still go ahead undeterred if such cooperation was not forthcoming.

Britain and the US too lost no time after Pillay's statement in asking Sri Lanka to cooperate with the investigation. Sri Lanka has rejected their call.

The senior diplomat endorsed this stance adding," Any kind of cooperation will be lending unnecessary credibility to the UN Human Rights High Commissioner's intrusive mechanism.

We have rejected the US resolution that proposed this UN team of investigators in March this year in Geneva. We cannot backtrack now."

He said, "If this is an act of help why is it that they have to force it down our throats," adding that their intentions were quite clear and the Government cannot lend cooperation to any attempt that is inimical to Sri Lanka's interests.

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