Sri Lanka’s bid to postpone publication of a UnitedNations report into alleged war crimes has won the backing of U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Monday.
Sri Lanka’s new government had asked for a delay of several months to give it time to establish a new judicial mechanism to deal with the allegations of war crimes committed during the country’s civil war.
In a letter to the president of the U.N. Human Rights Council, which set up the investigation in March last year, Zeid recommended delaying publication from next month until the council’s 30th session, which is due to take place in September.
“My request is based on the changing context in Sri Lanka, and the signals of broad cooperation I have received from the Government, as well as the possibility that new information will become available for the report,” he wrote.
The council will determine the report’s final publication date, although Zeid’s opinion will be influential in its decision.
In his request to the Human Rights Council, Zeid appended a letter from Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, which set out reforms that the new government planned to implement within 100 days, including ensuring justice for war crimes.
Samaraweera said he had invited Zeid to Sri Lanka, and all media restrictions and blocks on news websites had been lifted.
“… the Government, although only just over a month old, has already taken a series of steps to ensure freedom of expression, assembly and movement, and protect and safeguard the human rights of all citizens as already manifested and widely acknowledged by the international community,” Samaraweera wrote.
The United Nations estimated in 2011 that about 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final weeks of the civil war, which ended in 2009, most of them by the army.