Sri Lanka has rejected United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay’s critique that the country has neglected its investigation of war crimes allegations and is leaning towards authoritarian rule, the Financial Times reports.
Sri Lanka’s civil war with the Tamil Tigers ended in 2009, with a civilian death count of approximately 40,000. International bodies and Western powers have been pushing for thorough investigations into allegations of war crimes committed by the government.
Concluding a high-profile week-long visit to Sri Lanka, Ms. Pillay said on Saturday, “I am deeply concerned that Sri Lanka, despite the opportunity provided by the end of the war to construct a new vibrant all-embracing state, is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction.”
On Sunday, Sri Lanka’s information ministry claimed that Ms. Pillay’s critique “clearly transgresses her mandate and the basic norms which should be observed by a discerning international civil servant.”
Financial Times notes that Sri Lanka’s resistance to international input is uncomfortably timed. In March, the UN Human Rights Council passed a US-sponsored resolution criticizing Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa for limiting independence in the parliament, judiciary and media.
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already made clear his decision to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) summit, due to take place in Sri Lanka in November, on account of the country’s poor human rights record.
Speaking to Financial Times on condition of anonymity, one Western diplomat claimed that “America has lost patience with the Sri Lankans, but there is now real worry about credibility…If the US and its allies can’t even get a small country like Sri Lanka to behave itself, what hope does it have in more difficult cases, let alone somewhere like Syria?”
The Sri Lankan government reportedly took limited steps to address international critiques immediately before Pillay’s arrival, including the establishment of a commission to examine civilian disappearances during the civil war.