Geneva, Jan. 16, 2008 – UN Watch expressed concern today after Sri Lanka’s representative in Geneva called the office of High Commissioner Louise Arbour “unqualified” to report on the island’s bloody conflict. Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based NGO, said it was legitimate to debate statements by the world body but was “disappointed that a vice-president of the Human Rights Council would negate a core duty of the UN’s highest human rights official.”
Earlier this week, Ms. Arbour issued a statement calling on all parties to the Sri Lankan conflict to respect international law and ensure the protection of civilians. Yesterday, in response, the office of Sri Lanka’s envoy to the Human Rights Council, Dayan Jayatilleka, called Arbour’s statement “gratuitous” and complained of “obvious bias” by her office. “The High Commissioner has once again proven . . . how unqualified the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is in monitoring and reporting human rights in Sri Lanka as an independent actor,” said the statement.
“We regret the use of ill-advised language and the disputing of the UN’s jurisdiction to monitor the events in Sri Lanka,” said Neuer.
The office of Ambassador Jayatilleka also repeated a charge often levelled by China and other countries who oppose scrutiny of their records, saying the “OHCHR should be more transparent in its funding and decision-making” and “more representative of the world’s peoples and regions in its composition.”
Neuer said Sri Lanka’s latest statement against High Commissioner Arbour’s office “only underscores the dangerous attempts by repressive regimes to eliminate all forms of independent human rights scrutiny.” China, Iran, Sudan and other members of the “Like Minded Group” successfully introduced a Human Rights Council resolution (HRC 4/6) in March 2007 that imposed geographic requirements, instead of merit, as the basis for staff hiring by Ms. Arbour’s office, and sought to curb her independence.