A top official handpicked by Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena to represent the country came in for harsh criticism by the UN for “putting a spin” on a high level bilateral meeting in Geneva.
In a strongly worded statement the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday, that a newspaper article quoting a senior Sri Lankan official “seriously misrepresents” her discussion of the recent UN Human Rights Office report on Sri Lanka with a Sri Lanka Government delegation attending the Human Rights Council, (UNHRC) in Geneva on March 20.
A member of the Government delegation, Northern Province Governor Dr. Suren Raghaven, claimed in Colombo that the High Commissioner “admitted that certain facts incorporated in the UNHRC report against Sri Lanka could not be condoned whatsoever.” He also claimed Bachelet had advised two of her senior officials who attended the meeting “to be more responsible and cautious hereafter.”
The comments by the governor made at a press conference in Colombo was widely reported in the local media.
‘A fair reflection’
“Neither of these claims are true,” Bachelet said. “Either the newspaper misunderstood the Governor, or the Governor misunderstood – or misquoted – me.” The high commissioner said she stands fully behind the report and the oral statement she made when presenting it to the Human Rights Council, and that she believes it fairly and objectively reflects the situation in Sri Lanka.
Returning from Geneva after leading the delegation to the UNHRC, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministers account also suggested that the high commissioner was told that her report contained inaccurate information.
“… the Sri Lanka delegation emphasized the importance in compiling these reports by engaging closely with the relevant local institutions and independent bodies, including the National Human Rights Commission, in verifying facts on the ground,” said Minister Tilak Marapana in a statement.
The high commissioner emphasized that the Sri Lankan government was aware of the contents of her report.
“The government’s views were taken into account when finalizing the report, and a delegation of senior UN human rights officials discussed its contents with a wide range of Government officials during a visit to Sri Lanka in February,” said the statement from Geneva.
With the government delegation, the Sri Lankan media too came under criticism for inaccurate coverage of the UNHRC proceedings, where Sri Lanka was granted two more years to deliver on its commitments on war crimes accountability.
“I am deeply disappointed bythe spin that has been put on my discussion with the Sri Lankan Government delegation,” Bachelet said, noting that news outlets in Sri Lanka were also continuing to significantly misrepresent the Human Rights Council process in Geneva.