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UN Rights Official Calls for Investigation into Ukraine, Sri Lanka

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - A Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil girl applies vermillion on the forehead of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in red, as she welcomes her at a vocational training center in Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka, Aug. 27, 2013.

FILE - A Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil girl applies vermillion on the forehead of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in red, as she welcomes her at a vocational training center in Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka, Aug. 27, 2013.

The top U.N. human rights official is calling for independent international investigations into human rights violations in Ukraine and Sri Lanka. Navi Pillay highlighted these two key issues in her annual report on human rights crises around the world.

This was Pillay’s final annual report to the U.N. Council before stepping down as High Commissioner for Human Rights in August. She reflected with pride upon the accomplishments of her office during her six-year tenure. But expressed sorrow for the many challenges and implacable brutality that cause so much grievous suffering around the world.

Pillay spoke about the need to strengthen accountability and about the dangers of allowing states and individuals to commit gross human rights violations with impunity.

“Nearly five years on from the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka, I regret that the government has failed to satisfy the Council’s call for a credible and independent investigation into allegations of serious human rights violations," she said. "I am therefore recommending that the time has come for the Council to establish its own international inquiry mechanism, which I believe can play a positive role where domestic mechanisms have failed.”

The Sri Lankan government has rejected an international inquiry into possible war crimes by government forces and separatist Tamil Tigers during a 26-year civil war. The Sinhalese government accuses Pillay, who is a South African of Tamil ancestry, of being biased - an accusation she denies.

Pillay also called for an independent investigation into all human rights violations that have taken place in Ukraine in recent months.

“These include killings, disappearances, arbitrary detentions, torture and ill-treatment," she said. "I strongly believe that respect for human rights norms and standards, building a society that is inclusive of the rights of all, is key to finding a peaceful and durable solution to the current crisis.”

Pillay said that a senior human rights officer has been sent to Ukraine and other staff members would follow.

Ukrainian U.N. Ambassador Yurii Klymenko took the floor at the Council to denounce the illegal entry of Russian armed forces on the territory of his country.

“We are confident that with appropriate backing of international community in guaranteeing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of my country as well as in resolving ... economic problems, Ukraine will keep the difficult, but right track we are back on,” he said.

Pillay also raised concerns about protecting human rights in the context of counter-terrorism and armed drones. She spoke with particular passion about the harm caused by discrimination to people all around the world.

She described the work of her office in trying to help victims of sexual violence in armed conflict in Central African Republic, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia. She urged nations not to forget the unspeakable violations occurring in Syria and North Korea.

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