| by Victor Cherubim
( March 26, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sri Lanka is a sovereign, independent nation, with a democratically elected government, whether we like it or not. It has a civilisation spanning nearly 5000 years, a pristine culture, respected religion and with prehistoric traditions of its peoples. By some stretch of “human imagination,” perhaps, oblivious to some, “do gooders” want to associate, to compare, class and classify, this nation, as a State similar to Sierra Leone or Rwanda or even Cambodia. They maintain they are justified in internationally intervening in its national affairs,” on basis of “right to protect, “without understanding its cultural sensitivities, or giving it time and space for “rights improvement.”
|cartoon courtesy from the UK Mirror|
Successive Governments of Sri Lanka, over 30 long years, having put up, with a group wanting to overthrow the State by violence, undoubtedly accepted the war situation in a part of its sovereign territory during this period. It continued providing basic necessities and amenities, food, medical facilities, education, pension rights, salaries for all civil and government servants and transport, to all its citizens, though perhaps, the barest for survival in the eyes of some observers.
Understandably, this provision was afforded to the enemies of the State, for all intents and purposes, before, during, and after this war, as the State accepted its responsibility to all its citizens in whatever way it deemed possible. This was on the basis that the peoples affected in the war torn areas were also, citizens of Sri Lanka, race or religion notwithstanding.
There is no denying that Sri Lankans of all races and creeds helped to bring relief to the war stricken in the various camps, after the war, irrespective of spurious claims by some parties.
After two successive resolutions on Human Rights by the UNHRC, Geneva, in March 2012 and 2013, a third resolution chastising the nation of Sri Lanka has now been drafted and will be voted on within days, showing Sri Lanka as callus. The Government of Sri Lanka is before this Council to justify its wrongs. It has tried to explain that at the end of any conflict, it is inevitable; sometimes it is necessary to accept a degree of human rights violations, as part and part of war. It has continually argued that it is responsible to enforce accountability.
The Draft resolution has been amended several times to accommodate the views of its 47 member nations. It naturally has tried to understand the utility of accountability measures, such as sanctions or force, as it is aware it cannot immediately be enforced.
Yet, UNHRC is determined to adjudicate whether an international investigation body, will be forced upon Sri Lanka and its people, by a coterie of nations tied to the will of some powerful nations, by a variety of strategic or economic reasons. It is deemed a free vote, in practice it is predetermined. The third UNHRC resolution will we expect call for an international investigation, being “thrust down our throats, “in the guise of its “right to enforce” accountability for the crimes against humanity and in the process hope to “create” reconciliation among Sri Lankans. Many observers consider this is a way to cajole the unconvinced, as reconciliation and accountability are two ends of the spectrum of UNHRC architecture.
Enforceability of the International Resolution
Punitive sanctions could not be immediately envisaged in non compliance without recourse to a Security Council resolution. Yet there are many challenges, hurdles to overcome least of all the consent of the Government of Sri Lanka, to allow an international panel appointed to investigate war crimes, within Sri Lanka.
If there is an International Commission of Inquiry, it could be a judicial inquiry, it could be held outside of Sri Lanka. Significant challenges to promoting human rights norms still remain. Attention to prevention of future non compliance, accountability for atrocities would also have to be given consideration.
There is the question of the rights of the State against the rights of UNHRC. The issue is to assess Human Rights conduct of States. Then there is the issue whether enforcement will only publicise the abuses, rather than correct them. In fact, the general consensus among members is that condemnation is counterproductive. Rather, a way of finding or responding to the atrocities already committed is gaining favour among many Asian and African members on UNHRC. There is a doubt whether reconciliation is something that could be enforced from the outside.
Allowing that the concept of Human Rights is abstract to many in the under developed world. Many nations continue to dispute UN intervention in civil and political matters.
“Governments resist adhering to international norms that are perceived as contradictory to local, cultural and social values, as the world struggles to balance the democratic promise of human rights protection against Western values of identification.”
Locus of Activity
What we are seeing in the world today is the raising of the political will and public consciousness in resolution of human rights issues. The rights of women, minorities, persecuted ethnic groups also have steadily increased. The locus of activity has moved to regional compliance rather than international intervention. This is markedly attracting civil society efforts in achieving striking success in tackling human rights abuses.
Words of advice to Mr.Cameron
Some parts of Rukshan Perera’s melody (of Jet Liners fame) could sum it all up:
“Don’t bring shame to your country, Mr. Cameron! Why use us to win your votes, Mr. Cameron! Why forever drag us down, Mr. Cameron! Cut the bull on human rights, Mr.Cameron !!!.”