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The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay arrived in Sri Lanka a short while ago for a week long official visit, ahead of next month’s regular session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The UN human rights chief and her delegation arrived in the country at around 10am today, on an invitation extended by the government, Foreign Secretary Karunaratna Amunugama said.

The visit assumes importance in the back drop of two successive US-sponsored UNHRC resolutions against Sri Lanka which urged the government to achieve progress on reconciliation with the Tamil minority.

Pillay, a South African national of Indian Tamil origin, has also served as a judge of the International Criminal Court and President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Her four-year term as High Commissioner for Human Rights began on 1 September 2008 and was extended an additional two years in 2012.

She is the first senior U.N. official to visit the country since the end of a nearly three-decade-long conflict in 2009, despite Colombo extending an invitation to the body more than two years ago.

The Sri Lankan government has faced criticism for not doing enough to bring to justice those responsible for alleged rights abuses and to foster reconciliation in the polarised nation following the defeat of separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

The U.N. Human Rights Council had urged the government in a March resolution to carry out credible investigations into the deaths and disappearances of thousands of people while many Western nations, including Britain and Canada, have also demanded an independent probe.

Colombo has rejected the allegations and resisted pressure to allow an independent commission to investigate its military, saying a wide range of recommendations made by its own body, the Lessons Learnt Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), are being implemented.

Prior to her highly anticipated visit, Pillay had stated that she wanted to see for herself the reconstruction and rehabilitation effort and also the progress being made towards accountability and reconciliation.

The High Commissioner also said she wanted to find out more about the commission and discuss what was being done about the massacre of 17 aid workers from the charity Action Contre La Faim (ACF) seven years ago.

Pillay’s visit comes ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November, and observers say Sri Lanka will be hoping her findings help Rajapaksa gain more credibility overseas on human rights issues.

During her visit, Pillay will travel to the war-ravaged Northern and Eastern Provinces, and is expected to meet with government officials, opposition parties, civil society groups as well as survivors of the conflict.

She will also be looking into reports of violent attacks on religious minorities and assessing freedom of expression and assembly, the difficulties faced by the media and human rights defenders, the independence of the judiciary and political participation.

Sri Lanka would also record the progress of its own Human Rights Action Plan and the progress in the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission with the UN rights chief.

Pillay will provide a spoken update on Sri Lanka to the Human Rights Council in September, and a full formal report in March 2014, in accordance with the resolution adopted by the Council earlier this year.

President’s Special Envoy on Human Rights and Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe had said the government is looking forward to the High Commissioner’s visit and was hopeful that she would provide a balanced and objective report on the island to the next UNHRC session.