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UN official ‘laughed at’ HRW concern over Mahinda Rajapaksa as Chief Guest

A local United Nations official in Sri Lanka reportedly “laughed at” concerns expressed by Human Rights Watch over the invitation of Sri Lankan prime minister and accused war criminal as the ‘Chief Guest’ for an event last week, a move the group had called a "slap in the face for victims of human rights abuses and war crimes”.

“They now want to take decisions on behalf of the UN,” the official was quoted by Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times as stating. “How much more stupid can things take,” he reportedly asked.

The UN has been under pressure to respond to criticism of its decision to invite Rajapaksa as chief guest for the event celebrating the 75th anniversary of the global body.

"Instead of focusing on them, the UN chose to honor one of the people implicated in their suffering, the country's prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa," HRW said in a statement. "Even after the war ended, Rajapaksa's administration committed countless human rights violations against journalists, activists and those seeking justice… To add insult to injury, the government has openly opposed victims's demands for justice - something the UN strongly supports.”

The UN in Sri Lanka previously sparked controversy earlier this year after Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa made remarks to the United Nations’ resident co-ordinator Hanaa Singer, claiming that thousands of forcibly disappeared and missing Tamils “are actually dead”.

Singer with Gotabaya Rajapaksa earlier this year.

The Tamil Civil Society Forum (TCSF) called on the global body to respond to those claims, stating that “the UN will be well reminded to reread the recommendations and conclusions of the Charles Petrie Report commissioned by Secretary General Ban Ki Moon”. 

“Writing about his 2012 report in 2014 Charles Petrie concluded that the systemic failure on the part of the UN was defined by ‘poor institutional reflexes and timidity’,” said the TCSF at the time. "It seems like nothing has changed in the UN. Even if late, we demand a response from the UN.”

The UN did not respond to calls for comments at the time.

See more from the Sunday Times here.

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