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HRC Meeting March 2014 – Another Farce

| by Brian Senewiratne

( March 5, 2014, Canberra, Sri Lanka Guardian) Here we go again. It is carnival time (or shopping time or sight-seeing time) again in Geneva as the 25th Session of the Human Rights Council kicks off on 3 March 2014.

Image courtesy: wiki.godvillegame.com
Two years ago on 15 March 2012 I wrote an article (still on the net ), titled “UN Human Rights Council Meting. Another Farce”. 

I started with 

“This is not a document for easy reading, nor is it meant to be. It is a reasonably comprehensive record of the abysmal record of the UN and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in addressing human rights violations. 

I am not going to repeat this comprehensive article.

A few days ago I was completing another article:

“Sri Lanka. Rape of Tamil women, men and children by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and their collaborators”.

It is for release on International Women’s Day 2014, March 8.

In the opening pages, I dealt with the various legal and human rights bodies. Here is what I wrote about the UN Human Rights Council:

“The UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC) sits in Geneva every three months. It is just a talk-shop, a political one at that (not consisting of experts in human rights), that does nothing, despite its outstanding Head, High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay.

Pillay is only the Head of the HRC – not the HRC. She has asked for an Independent International Investigation into what happened in the closing stages of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka (18 May 2009) for years. Yet nothing has happened.

Soon after the massacre of Tamil civilians in 2009, UN HRC passed an outrageous Resolution actually commending Sri Lanka! On May 26 and 27, 2009, a week after the end of the massacre of thousands of Tamil civilians, the UN HRC in a ‘Special session’, clearly sponsored by Sri Lanka, passed a Resolution largely commending Sri Lanka . Human Rights Watch slammed the Resolution: “Sri Lanka: UN Rights Council Fails Victims”.

With a return to sanity in 2012 and 2013, UN HRC passed two Resolutions critical of Sri Lanka but still gave time (a year each time) for rape, murder, ‘disappearance’ and other major human rights violations in the Tamil areas to continue. These Resolutions were ‘watered down’ to make them politically more acceptable so that what was finally passed was quite meaningless. Even these ‘watered down’ Resolutions have been ignored by Sri Lanka.

In a few weeks (March 2014), yet another ‘Resolution’ will be passed on Sri Lanka’s human rights record, and possibly on the need for an International Independent Inquiry. Whether that too be ‘watered down’, I do not know but I think it will be. Even if it not, there is nothing to stop Sri Lanka from doing nothing. Given the past record, I am not optimistic.

The Rajapaksa junta has already said that an international investigation into war crimes is ‘interfering with a sovereign State’ and that this is unacceptable. It has also said that international ‘meddling’ will ‘complicate’ the issue. That, of course, is arrant nonsense. International action to stop abuse will greatly simplify the problem (and even stop it), not ‘complicate’ it.

In the unlikely event of a powerful Resolution being passed against Sri Lanka, there is nothing to stop the Sri Lankan regime from telling the UN HRC to get lost. As far as I am aware, there are no penalties if a Resolution passed against a country is simply ignored. Without penalties, these Resolutions are useless. People like ‘President’ Mahinda Rajapaksa and his all powerful brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary (in reality the de facto President – his brother being only the de jure President), will probably ask the UN HRC to get lost (as they have in the past), or say that they need more time – endless years of time – ‘to sort things out’ and that any other alternative is an attempt to ‘bully a small country’ or support Tamil Tiger ‘terrorists (even if they have been crushed by the Governments own admission). Incidentally, with a land area of 25,000 sq miles, Sri Lanka is not a particularly small country and one that is much larger than many UN countries.”

Those who read the draft copy of my article urged me to hold off till the UN HRC meeting was over since there might be a surprise (meaning that for once itwould do something of value to address the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the Tamil areas in Sri Lanka.

I said that I will be glad to wait but I did not share their optimism. Well, I do not need to wait. It is now out in the open – another useless Resolution that addresses nothing. In a way it does, since it allows the murderous regime in Colombo to continue with the serious abuse of human rights in the Tamil areas – more of the same.

There was the usual clap-trap (‘Recalling’ this and that) and then it ‘Recalled’ the HRC Resolutions of March 2012 and March 2013) “on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka”,

Then came the expected nonsense – no different from the nonsense “Resolved” in the previous two years.

Here is what it is about to tell the Sri Lankan government:

“.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 on the Government of Sri Lanka 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 August 1,2013, and the Army Court of Inquiry report of 2013;

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 of Sri Lanka’s constitution;

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 of Sri Lanka 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 High Commissioner’s recommendations and conclusions 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 toward 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 fourth session, and a comprehensive report followed by a discussion on the implementation of the present resolution at its twenty-eighth fifth session”

What will President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government do? To say “Thank you so much” to those who put up this Resolution and let this murderous regime off the hook (yet again) so that the Tamil people in the North and East can continue to be brutalised by the (Sinhalese) Armed Forces and have their life shattered even more so – if that is possible.

The smiling Rajapaksa will smile even more broadly and throw his arms round the USA, UK and India in a gesture of absolute appreciation, whatever the threats were a few months ago.

Is will be ‘business as usual’ for the Sri Lankan government and its murderous Armed Forces. The (massive) Sri Lankan delegation that usually arrives in Geneva, can relax, finish their shopping and sight-seeing, and go home relieved. They will be wildly cheered on arrival in Colombo – and perhaps even garlanded, for a job well done, despite the gloomy prospects just a few weeks ago. All the fear was completely unfounded as previous UN HRC Resolutions have consistently showed.

If people still believe that the UN or the Human Rights Council are going to save the Sri Lankan Tamils, or for that matter, Sri lanka itself, from a Totalitarian murderous, incompetent and corrupt regime, they are not in the real world..

As Professor Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law, Illinois, USA has pointed out it is “all the work of the new US Secretary of State John Kerry, who assumed office on 1 Feb 2013, was Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations in 2009 that brought out a report advising the USA to help Sri Lanka’s military without insisting on political solutions. Finding a clear link between the 2009 Kerry Report and Kerry’s State Department”,

The only option is to take those guilty of gross human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity – not just what they have done in the past 5 years, but for what they are doing today, to an International Court, and that might not be easy.

While these international games are being played, the Tamils in the Sri Lankan North and East will slowly disappear and cease to be a people. That, in my book, is Genocide.

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