India was studying the report of the UN secretary general’s panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka and would soon engage with the Lankan government about issues raised by it. President Mahinda Rajapaksa had called up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh soon after receiving a copy of the report on April 12. “The government has seen the Report of the Panel of Experts appointed by the UN Secretary General to advise him on accountability-related issues…The issues raised in the report need to be studied carefully. As a first step, we intend to engage with the Government of Sri Lanka on the issues contained in the report,” the ministry of external affairs, said in a statement.
New Delhi’s guarded reaction comes hours after the report was made public by the UN office in New York in spite of Sri Lanka asking the global agency not to make it public. The three-member panel has recommended an independent international enquiry into the alleged killing of “tens of thousands of civilians” in the last months of the war, saying Sri Lanka’s internal mechanism didn’t measure up to accepted standards.
But what could mitigate Colombo’s discomfiture was what UN chief Ban Ki-moon said after the report was released. “In regard to the recommendation that he establish an international investigation mechanism, the secretary general is advised that this will require host country consent or a decision from Member States through an appropriate intergovernmental forum,” a statement issued by the spokesperson for the chief said.
It means that Sri Lanka’s permission, a highly improbable possibility, will be required for an international investigation mechanism to be set up. Or the recommendation would have to be approved by the General Assembly or Security Council. On its part, the government has already dismissed the report, which severely indicts the military for allegedly bombing civilians. The report also accused the separatist Tamil Tigers of using civilians as a human shield against the advancing army and shooting at those trying to escape.