An elephantine gestation: UN Panel’s report on accountability in Sri Lanka released
Leaked versions of the UN Panel’s report found their way into The Island newspaper, where over the past week, Groundviews has contextualised the content that was published in print. Today, the Hindustan Times published an article based on the full version of the report, based on a leaked version of the full report the paper had acquired. Interestingly, the unimaginable horror highlighted in the HT’s report (body parts of babies on tree tops after shelling by the Army) is not content that was published in The Island.
The UN had earlier expressed its deep regret over the leak to mainstream print media in Sri Lanka. Accusations between Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s envoy to the UN in New York and UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq over who is responsible for the leak have been traded.
The constitution of the Secretary General’s panel and its mandate was announced in June 2010. As noted on the UN website,
“The Secretary-General has appointed a Panel of Experts that will advise him on the issue of accountability with regard to any alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka. Its members are: Marzuki Darusman ( Indonesia), Chair; Yasmin Sooka ( South Africa); and Steven Ratner ( United States).
The Panel will advise the Secretary-General on the implementation of the commitment on human rights accountability made in the Joint Statement issued by President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka and the Secretary-General during the latter’s visit to Sri Lanka in May 2009. It will look into the modalities, applicable international standards and comparative experience with regard to accountability processes, taking into account the nature and scope of any alleged violations in Sri Lanka. It will be available as a resource to Sri Lankan authorities should they wish to avail themselves of its expertise in implementing the commitment.”
There was some concern that the ostensibly on-going discussions between the Foreign Minister and the UN Secretary General would delay indefinitely the public release of the report. However, despite strong calls from Sri Lanka to not release it (and strangely, Oman), the UN went ahead and published it today.
The official version of the report, released today around 5.45pm New York time, can be read in full below. The UN Secretary General’s statement on the official release of the report can be read here and is reproduced below as well.
Download it directly here (~9.2Mb).
Pertinent to recall in light of this report is the investigation commissioned by the erstwhile Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Philip Alston, in relation to the authenticity of the “Channel 4 videotape”, showing the execution of unarmed persons by the Sri Lankan Army. However, the authenticity of this video, also referred to in the report of the UN SG’s Panel of Experts, continues to be vehemently denied by the Sri Lankan government. Alston’s official report to the UN on the video and its appendix can be read below.