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UN Human Rights head criticises Sri Lanka's attacks on probe of violations

IANS 08 Nov 2014, 6:19:58 AM IST

United Nations: UN Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has condemned Sri Lanka for attacking his organisation's investigations into human rights violations there and "creating a wall of fear" to prevent people from providing evidence.

UN Secretary-General's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, told reporters here Friday that Zeid "spoke out against what he called the continuing attacks by the Sri Lankan Government on the integrity of the UN Human Rights Office's (UNHRO) investigation into alleged grave human rights violations and abuses in the country."

Dujarric said the commissioner also condemned the intimidation of human rights defenders and people wishing to cooperate with the investigation mandated by the Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March. The deadline for submitting evidence to the inquiry was Oct. 30.

In Geneva, Zeid accused Colombo of carrying out a "campaign of distortion and disinformation about the investigation" calling it "an affront to the UNHRC."

"A wall of fear has been created that has undoubtedly served to deter people from submitting evidence," Zeid said, adding that civil society organisations and human rights defenders are being subjected to surveillance, harassment and other forms of intimidation.

He said he took exception to Colombo's accusations "that the conduct of the investigation has been 'unprofessional' and that its approach is 'selective and biased.'"

While the campaign against the probe has been ongoing, a trigger for the Zeid's vehement criticism Friday was Sri Lankan attempts to link the UNHRO probe to the arrest of a man allegedly found with six signed, but blank, complaint "UN war crimes complaints forms."

Quoting a "senior security official," Sri Lankan media reported last week that the arrested person had undergone a month's LTTE combat training and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had assigned him to collect signatures on blank forms in the Vanni region.

Zeid said the accusation that the investigation was somehow compromised by the man's arrest was "absurd."

"UN human rights investigators are trained to spot fraudulent submissions," Zeid said. "The process of analysis and corroboration of information and evidence is well defined, refined and codified on the basis of many years' experience." He added, "It is a false equation to suggest that because someone may have been trying to submit false submissions, the inquiry is discredited."

The UNHCR has not created or distributed, and forms and would never pay for information, he said.

The official quoted in Sri Lankan media tried to link the alleged discovery of blank forms with signatures to Northern Provincial Councilor Ananthy Sasitharan's appeal to UNHRC to extend the deadline for providing evidence of war crimes.

But the UNHRC investigation team said the deadline for submissions ended on Oct. 30 and that even the e-mail address for submissions been taken down.