08/27/2013, 00.00
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Navi Pillay in Sri Lanka to vet human rights violations

by Melani Manel Perera
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is in Colombo at the start of a five-day visit. She plans to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa and make short trips to the country's hotspots.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - "I have come here not to criticise but to raise human rights concerns," said Navaneetham (Navi) Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as she spoke to journalists who mobbed her when she arrived in Sri Lanka.

Ms Pillay, who is on an official visit to the country (25-30 August), plans several meetings, above all one with President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Civil society groups hope however that she will travel to those places where the human rights situation is still critical.

The visit by the UN High Commissioner was in the air for over a year, but was only recently confirmed.

One of the key points that many activists are hoping to see addressed is related to the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), a special committee set up by the president to investigate the final stages of the civil war.

According to a UN report, the armed forces committed serious war crimes in the last months of the war (in 2009), including the death of more than 40,000 civilians who died from shelling and bombings as well as cold blooded executions. For this reason, on 21 March the UNHRC passed a second resolution against the country.

Most people "want Ms Pillay to visit places where human rights have been violated on a grand scale," said lawyer and activist Nimalka Fernando, places like the villages of Mullikulam and, more recently, Weliweriya.

The High Commissioner herself said she wanted to visit the country's hotspots.

"Now I am here to assess the human rights situation and I am speaking to both the government and the Tamil society. I am also planning to go around the country as much as I can. And when I go back I will be reporting on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka to the Human Rights Council," she explained.

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