We strongly support position of High Commissioner’ says UK

swire   British Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Hugo Swire, responding to questions in stated that the UK strongly supports the position of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, adding that the international community has a duty to act on Sri Lanka.

Ms Abbott: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the initiation of an independent, international war crimes inquiry in Sri Lanka.

Mr Swire: As the Prime Minister said in his statement to Parliament on 18 November 2013, we will continue to press the Sri Lankan Government for credible, transparent and independent investigations into alleged war crimes during Sri Lankan’s recent conflict. We have made clear that if a credible domestic process has not begun properly by March 2014 we will use our seat on the UN Human Rights Council to call for an international investigation. We are regularly discussing Sri Lanka with a range of international partners ahead of the March Human Rights Council. The High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report due ahead of the March Human Rights Council will provide an assessment of Sri Lanka’s progress.

Ms Abbott: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the accountability process in Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement.

Mr Swire: As the Prime Minister made clear in his statement to Parliament on 18 November, we continued to be concerned about the lack of credible, transparent and independent investigations into alleged violations on both sides of the Sri Lanka conflict. We strongly support the position of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, that if Sri Lanka has not demonstrated a credible national accountability process by March 2014, then the international community has a duty to act. We have made clear if the Sri Lankan Government has not begun properly with credible investigations by March, then we will use our position on the UN Human Rights Council to work with the UN Human Rights Commissioner and call for an international investigation. The High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report due ahead of the March Human Rights Council will give an assessment of Sri Lanka’s progress.

Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the report by ACF International entitled, The Truth about the Assassination of 17 aid workers in Sri Lanka, published on 13 December 2013; and if he will make a statement.

Mr Swire: The British Government has been consistently clear that it is vital that there are transparent, independent and credible investigations into alleged abuses and violations of humanitarian and human rights law during Sri Lanka’s recent conflict. This includes the 2006 murder of 17 Action Contre le Faim (ACF) aid workers. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights observed there has been “relatively little progress” in this case when reporting to the Human Rights Council in September 2013. This was reinforced by the 3 December ACF report. The Sri Lankan Government has recently stated that investigations are ongoing; it is important that progress is made in identifying and bringing to justice the perpetrators.

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made on the establishment of an independent investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka.

Mr Swire: Since the end of the military conflict in Sri Lanka, the British Government has been clear that there should be a credible, transparent and independent investigation into allegations of violations and abuses of international humanitarian and human rights law. Following her visit to Sri Lanka last year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that she had detected ‘no new or comprehensive effort’ to investigate these allegations. We share the High Commissioners concerns and do not believe that processes set up by the Sri Lankan Government, such as the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission or the Commission of inquiry on Disappearances announced last year, adequately address accountability. If credible domestic investigations have not begun properly by March 2014, the Prime Minister has been clear that we will use our position on the United Nations Human Rights Council to work with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other countries to call for an international investigation.(Hansard)

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