| by Pearl Thevanayagam
( March 14, 2014, Bradford – UK, Sri Lanka Guardian ) Don’t hold your breath. UNHRC is not indicting our President for war crimes in the near future; rather it has given him ample time to go his merry way strutting about and bleating he ended 30 years of LTTE terrorism. Everything is hunky-dory in sunny Sri Lanka.
The draft resolution by US, Mauritius, Montenegro, Macedonia and UK and Northern Ireland presented to the Human Rights Council on March 11, 2014 has given some more grace period for the government to implement the present resolution and requested it to give an oral update at the 27th session and a comprehensive report followed by a discussion on the implementation at the 28th session.
Three sessions take place at the council in a year so we are looking at 2015 as the ultimatum for Sri Lanka to follow up on recommendations by UNHRC. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s puny war crimes issue would take a back seat to what would happen in other countries.
UNHRC’s draft resolution reiterated the need for an international investigation only in the absence of a credible national process with tangible results.
In a very smart move US managed to bring India on its side with dropping charges on its diplomat Divyani charged with fraud and underpaying her domestic aide. The weak as dish-water resolution US presented with its allies at the UNHRC is nothing new. US is playing the same game of rocking the cradle and pinching the baby.
Expressing deep concern, expressing serious concern and alarmed are some of the clichés UNHRC bandied about in the draft resolution.
Having said that, UNHRC High Commissioner Navi Pillai’s relentless pursuit to bring the government to account for war crimes cannot be brushed aside. She has a history of pursuing governments violating human rights and bringing them before the ICC.
“Erumboorak katkuliyum” is a Tamil saying which means when ants walk on stone they etch a path.
Let us live in hope the government stands trial for its many atrocities against Tamils, human rights activists, against the judiciary and its authoritarian rule unprecedented in the history of Sri Lanka is brought to an end in the near future with the help of conscientious human beings who still exist.
Following is the draft resolution presented on March 11, 2014:
Human Rights Council
Twenty- fifth session
Agenda item 2
Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the
High Commissioner and the Secretary-General
Mauritius,* Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America: draft resolution
25/… Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka
The Human Rights Council,
Reaffirming the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,
Guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights and other relevant instruments,
Bearing in mind General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006,
Recalling Human Rights Council resolutions 5/1, on institution-building of the Council, and 5/2, on the Code of Conduct for Special Procedures Mandate Holders, of 18 June 2007,
Recalling also Human Rights Council resolutions 19/2 of 22 March 2012 and 22/1 of 21 March 2013 on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka,
Reaffirming that it is the responsibility of each State to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of its entire population,
Reaffirming also that States must ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism complies with their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law, as applicable,
Expressing its support for all Sri Lankans to enjoy their rights, regardless of creed, faith or ethnicity, in a peaceful and unified land,
Welcoming and acknowledging the progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka in rebuilding infrastructure, demining and resettling the majority of internally displaced persons, while noting nonetheless that considerable work lies ahead in the areas of justice, reconciliation, demilitarization and the resumption of livelihoods, and stressing the importance of the full participation of local populations, including representatives of civil society and minorities, in these efforts,
Welcoming the successful Provincial Council elections held on 21 September 2013, and, in particular, the high turnout and participation in all three provinces, while noting with concern reports of election-related violence, as well as of voter and candidate intimidation,
Expressing appreciation for the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka in facilitating the visit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and welcoming the visit of the High Commissioner to Sri Lanka in August 2013,
Expressing deep concern at reported intimidation and retaliation against civil society members, including those who met with the High Commissioner during her visit,
Expressing serious concern at the continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, including sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as intimidation of and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society and journalists, and threats to judicial independence and the rule of law,
Alarmed at the rapid rise in violence and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, particularly against members of religious minority groups in Sri Lanka, including Hindus, Muslims and Christians,
Calling upon the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfil its public commitments, including on the devolution of political authority, which is integral to reconciliation and the full enjoyment of human rights by all members of its population,
Taking note of the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of Sri Lanka, its findings and recommendations, and acknowledging its possible contribution to the process of meaningful national reconciliation in Sri Lanka,
Recalling the constructive recommendations contained in the Commission’s report, including the need to credibly investigate widespread allegations of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, demilitarize the north of Sri Lanka, implement impartial land dispute resolution mechanisms, re-evaluate detention policies, strengthen formerly independent civil institutions, reach a political settlement on the devolution of power to the provinces, promote and protect the right of freedom of expression for all persons and enact rule of law reforms,
Taking note of the national plan of action to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of the Government of Sri Lanka and its commitments as set forth in response to the findings and recommendations of the Commission,
Reiterating that the national plan of action does not adequately address all of the findings and constructive recommendations of the Commission, and encouraging the Government of Sri Lanka to broaden the scope of the plan to adequately address all elements of the Commission’s report,
Reiterating with concern that the national plan of action and the Commission’s report do not adequately address serious allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law,
Emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive approach to transitional justice incorporating the full range of judicial and non-judicial measures, including, inter alia, individual prosecutions, reparations, truth-seeking, institutional reform, vetting of public employees and officials, or an appropriately conceived combination thereof, in order to, inter alia, ensure accountability, serve justice, provide remedies to victims, promote healing and reconciliation, establish independent oversight of the security system, restore confidence in the institutions of the State and promote the rule of law in accordance with international human rights law, with a view to preventing the recurrence of violations and abuses,
Underlining that truth-seeking processes, such as truth and reconciliation commissions, that investigate patterns of past human rights violations and their causes and consequences are important tools that can complement judicial processes, and that, when established, such mechanisms have to be designed within a specific societal context and be founded on broad national consultations with the inclusion of victims and civil society, including non-governmental organizations,
Recalling the responsibility of States to comply with their relevant obligations to prosecute those responsible for gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law constituting crimes under international law, with a view to end impunity,
Recalling also the High Commissioner’s conclusion that national mechanisms have consistently failed to establish the truth and to achieve justice, and her recommendation that the Human Rights Council establish an international inquiry mechanism to further investigate the alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law and monitor any domestic accountability processes,
Encouraging the Government of Sri Lanka to increase its dialogue and cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner, including with regard to technical assistance,
1. Welcomes the oral update presented by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-fourth session and the subsequent report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka and the recommendations and conclusions contained therein, including on the establishment of a truth-seeking mechanism and national reparations policy as an integral part of a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to transitional justice;
2. Calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, as applicable; to hold accountable those responsible for such violations; to end continuing incidents of human rights violations and abuses in Sri Lanka; and to implement the recommendations made in the reports of the Office of the High Commissioner;
3. Reiterates its call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to implement effectively the constructive recommendations made in the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and to take all necessary additional steps to fulfil its relevant legal obligations and commitment to initiate credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans;
4. Urges the Government of Sri Lanka to investigate all attacks, by individuals and groups, on temples, mosques and churches, and to take steps to prevent future attacks, and calls upon the Government to investigate and hold accountable perpetrators of attacks on places of worship, journalists, human rights defenders, members of religious minority groups and other members of civil society;
5. Calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to release the results of its investigations into alleged violations by security forces, including the attack on unarmed protesters in Weliweriya on 1 August 2013, and the report of 2013 by the court of inquiry of the Sri Lanka Army;
6. Encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to provide the Northern Provincial Council and its Chief Minister with the resources and authority necessary to govern, as required by the 13th amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka;
7. Welcomes the decision of the Government of Sri Lanka to facilitate the visit by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons and to issue an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, and encourages the Government to cooperate with special procedures mandate holders and to respond formally to their outstanding requests, including by setting dates and providing access;
8. Welcomes the recommendations and conclusions of the High Commissioner on the need for an independent and credible international investigation in the absence of a credible national process with tangible results, and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to assess progress towards accountability and reconciliation, to monitor relevant national processes and to investigate alleged violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka, with input from relevant special procedures mandate holders as appropriate, and to present an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-seventh session, and a comprehensive report followed by a discussion on the implementation of the present resolution at its twenty-eighth session;
9. Encourages the Office of the High Commissioner and relevant special procedures mandate holders to provide advice and technical assistance on implementing the above-mentioned steps;
10. Calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner in the implementation of the present resolution.
(The writer has been a journalist for 25 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at email@example.com)