“This has been a difficult decision,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein was quoted in a statement.
“There are good arguments for sticking to the original timetable, and there are also strong arguments for deferring the report’s consideration a bit longer, given the changing context in Sri Lanka, and the possibility that important new information may emerge which will strengthen the report,”
“In addition, I have received clear commitments from the new Government of Sri Lanka indicating it is prepared to cooperate with my Office on a whole range of important human rights issues – which the previous Government had absolutely refused to do – and I need to engage with them to ensure those commitments translate into reality.”
The High Commissioner stressed that the deferral of the report was “for one time only,” and his request for deferral was granted by the Council on Monday afternoon.He said that the three experts, who were appointed by his predecessor Navi Pillay to advise the investigation, had informed him that, in their unanimous view, a one-off temporary deferral would be the best option to allow space for the new Government to show its willingness to cooperate on human rights issues.
“Taking all this into account, I have therefore decided, on balance, to request more time to allow for a stronger and more comprehensive report,” Zeid said.
“I am acutely aware that many victims of human rights violations in Sri Lanka, including those who have bravely come forward to provide information to the inquiry team, might see this is as the first step towards shelving, or diluting, a report they have long feared they would never see,”
“I fully understand those fears and deep anxieties, given the history of failed or obstructed domestic human rights inquiries in Sri Lanka, and the importance of this international investigation being carried out by my team at the UN Human Rights Office,”
“There should be no misunderstanding,”
“I give my personal, absolute and unshakable commitment that the report will be published by September. Like my predecessors, I believe that one of the most important duties of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is to act as a strong voice on behalf of victims. I want this report to have the maximum possible impact in ensuring a genuine and credible process of accountability and reconciliation in which the rights of victims to truth, justice and reparations are finally respected.”