UN rights chief in Sri Lanka on fact finding mission

August 25, 2013 (AFP) – The UN’s top rights official begins a fact-finding mission to Sri Lanka on Sunday after the government dropped public hostility towards her and promised access to former war zones. Navi Pillay, who has previously been accused by Colombo of overstepping her mandate, is on a week-long mission that will include talks with President Mahinda Rajapakse and trips to the former war zones in the north and east.

The government’s U-turn came as Canada leads calls for a boycott of a Commonwealth summit scheduled to take place in the Sri Lankan capital later this year.

Sri Lanka has resisted pressure from the UN and Western nations for a credible investigation into allegations that up to 40,000 civilians were killed in the final months of its separatist war, which ended in 2009.

A no-holds-barred military offensive crushed Tamil Tiger rebels who at the height of their power controlled a third of Sri Lanka’s territory. Rajapakse has since been dogged by claims of indiscriminate killing of ethnic Tamils.

Tamil groups are banking on Pillay’s first visit to Sri Lanka to revive calls for a war crimes probe.

“We will take up with her the question of accountability, the issue