OHCHR probe: Witness protection area of concern

UNHRC 2   The investigation into the war in Sri Lanka by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) will be launched in mid-June, Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the OHCHR said.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will have the option of referring the report to the UN Security Council (UNSC) once it has been received by the UNHRC in March next year.

Colville said that initially, the report will be presented to the Human Rights Council and the UNHRC will then decide what to do next, as it has a range of options including referral to higher bodies. “The Security Council can take up any issues it chooses at any time, providing there is sufficient consensus on the Council itself,” Colville added. The Investigation Team will be operational for a period of 10 months (mid-June 2014 to mid-April 2015) and the first meeting of the full team, including external experts will be held in Geneva in July.

“The High Commissioner for Human Rights will present an oral update to the September session of the Human Rights Council, and its final report will be presented to the Council’s March 2015 session. In accordance with usual practice, OHCHR will ensure that the Government of Sri Lanka has the opportunity to provide comments on both the oral and comprehensive reports before they are issued,” the OHCHR spokesman said.

He said the investigation team will consist of 12 staff, including investigators, two forensics experts, a gender specialist, a legal analyst and various other staff with specialized skills.

The Coordinator is Sandra Beidas, a senior OHCHR staff member with more than 20 years’ experience in the field and extensive expertise in conducting human rights investigations. Meanwhile protection for witnesses and victims who are expected to give evidence to the investigations team is a major area of concern to the OHCHR.

“In her 5 June letter to the Government, the High Commissioner requested the Government to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of witnesses, victims and other individuals who may come forward to share information, as well as to prevent any reprisals against those who cooperate with the international and national investigations. The team’s procedures and methods of work will be designed to protect witnesses and other sources both during the investigation and after it is over,” Colville said. (Sunday Leader)

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