Lanka refuses entry to UN war crimes investigators

mahinda_srilankaSri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday emphatically refused to grant visas to UN war crimes investigators and instead named an Indian and a Pakistani in a team of experts for a domestic probe into alleged rights abuses during the 30-year civil war with the LTTE.

Rajapaksa said that he will extend his non-cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council mandated probe to deny visas for any international investigators seeking to enter the island. He also said that in any how we will not allow them into the country.

They will not be allowed to come Sri Lanka, the president stressed adding that Colombo strongly believed that the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) had no mandate to order an investigation in Sri Lanka.

However, he named Indian rights activist Avdhash Kaushal and Pakistani lawyer Ahmer Bilal Soofi to a five-member panel of foreign advisors that already includes Sri Lankan-origin British lawyer Desmond de Silva, and Geoffrey Nice and US law Professor David Crane, all former UN war crimes prosecutors.

Rajapaksa insisted that the advisors will help his Presidential Commission of Inquiry whose mandate was extended last month to probe rights abuses by both security forces and Tamil LTTE rebels.

Sri Lanka has rejected a UNHRC resolution in March that called for an international investigation into allegations that 40,000 civilians were killed in the final months of the civil war that ended in 2009.

Outgoing UN rights Chief Navi Pillay earlier this month suggested that her investigators looking into allegations may not have to travel to Sri Lanka at all as there was a wealth of information outside the country already.