Colombo: The United Nations' human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein began his first visit to Sri Lanka Saturday to gauge the island's progress in investigating atrocities committed by both sides during its prolonged civil war.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said he was hoping for "constructive discussions" during his four-day visit, which will take him to the former warzones of Jaffna and Trincomalee as well as the capital Colombo.
In addition to meeting with President Maithripala Sirisena, Zeid will meet with war victims as he prepares to make a report to the UN Human Rights Council in March on the nation's progress in probing war crimes.
"I have been looking forward to coming and I am looking forward to meeting both the highest officials of the state as well as representatives of all communities," Zeid said soon after landing in Colombo.
Hundreds of Sri Lankan nationalists who oppose any investigation into the conduct of their country's troops during the war staged a demonstration outside the UN offices in Colombo Saturday in protest at Zeid's visit.
"Al Hussein. Turn back. Go home," stated one placard left outside the UN compound, which was being guarded by a squad of anti-riot police.
The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution late last year calling for credible investigations into wartime atrocities committed by the government-backed military as well as Tamil Tiger separatists during the island's 37-year civil war.
Zeid went a step further calling for "hybrid courts" involving foreign judges, a demand Colombo rejected.
However, President Sirisena has agreed to a domestic investigation into allegations that troops killed at least 40,000 ethnic Tamils while defeating the separatists in the final stages of the war which ended in May 2009.
In contrast, his predecessor Mahinda Rajapakse had resisted calls for a probe after maintaining that not a single civilian had been killed by troops under his command.
A UN report in September described horrific wartime atrocities committed by both the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tiger rebels whose leadership has since been wiped out. An estimated 100,000 people died in Sri Lanka's ethnic war between 1972 and 2009....