Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president and Nobel laureate, will serve as an advisor to an international probe into alleged war crimes during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war, the UN has said.
Ahtisaari, who won the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize for his role as a mediator in trouble spots such as Indonesia, Namibia, Northern Ireland and the Balkans, will be one of three international experts assisting a team of 12 investigators in their controversial probe, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said in a statement on Wednesday.
The UN Human Rights Council in March backed a resolution calling on Pillay’s office to launch a probe into “alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka”.
Colombo has vowed not to cooperate with the international probe of alleged war crimes committed in 2009 when the government launched its final offensive to end one of Asia’s deadliest civil wars.
The UN has said up to 40,000 Tamil civilians may have been killed during the last months of fighting against Tamil Tiger rebels and blamed many of the atrocities on government forces – a charge Colombo denies.
The rebels were notorious for their suicide bombings during the 1972-2009 conflict, which is estimated by the UN to have claimed 100,000 lives.
In addition to Ahtisaari, Silvia Cartwright, a former governor general and high court judge in New Zealand, who is serving as a judge in Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge War Crimes Tribunal, will also serve as an advisor to the probe.
They will be joined by Asma Jahangir, a former president of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association and of the country’s Human Rights Commission, who was also part of a recent UN team investigating Israeli settlements.
The initial results of the probe are to be submitted to the council in September, and the investigators are set to present a comprehensive report next March.