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An Independent Investigation into Sri Lankan Executions is Urgent, says UN Expert

GENEVA - The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions called for the urgent establishment of an independent investigation into the authenticity of a video alleged to show the extrajudicial execution of two naked and helpless men by the Sri Lankan army and the presumed prior execution of a number of others.

“These images are horrendous and, if authentic, would indicate a serious violation of international law”, said Professor Philip Alston. “I am aware that the Sri Lankan Government has categorically denied the veracity of the allegations. This makes it all the more important for an independent investigation to be set up.

For the independent expert, “if the Government’s position is validated as a result of an inquiry, the international community can rest easy and the Government will have been vindicated. There is no justification for not moving ahead with such an investigation in view of the Government’s confidence that such atrocities were never perpetrated by its armed forces”.

Professor Alston stated that no Government today can simply dismiss such allegations without undertaking a thorough investigation that meets international standards. He also recalled that he has, on a number of occasions over recent years, requested to undertake a visit to Sri Lanka in order to review the situation. He regretted that, to date, he has not yet received an invitation to do so from the Government of Sri Lanka, but indicated that he was hopeful that such an invitation might be forthcoming in light of the most recent allegations.

Mr. Philip Alston was appointed Special Rapporteur in 2004 and reports to the United Nations Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights first decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur to examine questions relevant to summary or arbitrary executions in 1982. Mr. Alston is Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law