UNHRC vs Sri Lanka: Successive Resolutions going far beyond last phase of war

United Nations Human Rights Council - UNHRC

Are the Resolution architects confused or is their confusion intentional? Some clarifications are urgently needed. The initial Resolution against Sri Lanka brought forward within days of the conclusion of a 30 year armed conflict drew upon the human rights violations committed during the last phase of the war. Thereafter, with each passing Resolution a host of non-last phase related items have been plugged in – 13th amendment, devolution, reference to Northern Provincial Council only etc all of which do not require a Resolution but can be easily taken up through the universal periodic review. The 2014 Resolution is calling for an independent investigation and moving to an international investigation but covering period under LLRC which is 2002 to May 2009. By plugging non-last phase related issues to establish a scenario of unrest in Sri Lanka, the UNHRC is shrewdly trying to create precedence to initiate international investigations on CONCLUDED CONFLICTS and NOT ONGOING CONFLICTS. The friends of Sri Lanka and the GOSL must surely notice the nature of the plan and if such precedence is created it would affect only targeted nations.

What needs to be stressed is that the conflict in Sri Lanka is NO MORE. Terrorism has ended. Not a single bomb, suicide mission, terrorist assassination, child soldier recruitment, kidnapping and training men and women into combatants take place for the past 5 years. There is no ONGOING flavor to the Resolutions and explains why, in the thirst for vengeance the same countries that had a good tete a tete with the tigers are drafting Resolutions against Sri Lanka and drawing non-relevant items into the Resolutions expecting the GOSL would foolishly fall for the trap.

What is ambiguous is that while calling for the investigation to cover period set in the LLRC (2002 to 2009 May), the Resolution is making reference to all sorts of areas that have no relation to the armed conflict. Moreover, humanitarian laws come under the UN Security Council and not the UN Human Rights Council or the High Commission yet there is reference to humanitarian laws as well. We would like to know where all these tactics are bound.

A good look at the Resolutions passed against Sri Lanka highlights the crafty nature of the draft architects.

2-11/1 UNHRC Resolution titled ‘Assistant to Sri Lanka in the promotion and protection of human rights’ passed on 27th May 2009 with 29 countries in favour, 12 against and 6 abstentions. Areas highlighted :

  • acknowledged that LTTE launched attacks on civilian populations and used civilians as human shields
  • appreciated the liberation of tens of thousands of citizens kept hostage by the LTTE and acknowledged GOSL’s efforts to ensure the safety and security of all Sri Lankans.
  • was happy about the GOSL announcement to resettle IDPs in 6 months
  • was happy of the successful rehabilitation of reintegrated former child soldiers
  • urged GOSL to continue to strengthen its activities and ensure no discrimination against ethnic minorities (not an accusation)
  • urged the international community to cooperate with the GOSL in reconstruction, provision of financial assistance.

19/2 UNHRC Resolution titled “Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka” was passed on 22nd March 2012 with 24 in favour, 15 against and 8 abstentions.

  • LLRC report and recommendations and its possible contribution to national reconciliation
  • Highlighted that the report does not adequately address serious allegations of violations of international law.
  • Called upon GOSL to implement the constructive recommendations made in LLRC, draw an action plan on the steps GOSL would take to implement recommendations
  • Advice and technical  assistance by office of UN Human Rights Commissioner and special mandate holders was to be provided in consultation and with the concurrence of the GOSL (Office of UNHRC was to provide a report on provisions of such assistance)

22/1 UNHRC Resolution titled “Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka” was passed on 21 March 2013 with 25 in favour, 13 against and 8 abstentions.

  • welcomed announcement to hold elections in the Northern Provincial council
  • Acknowledged progress by GOSL in rebuilding infrastructure, demining, resettling majority of IDPs,
  • Again made reference to LLRC offering possible contribution to national reconciliation
  • Noted that the national plan of action did not adequately address all of LLRC’s recommendations.
  • UNHRC Resolution of 2013 has moved towards a totally new area of allegations covering freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, intimidation of and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society and journalists, threats to judicial independence and rule of law, discrimination on basis of religion or belief.
  • UNHRC Resolution of 2013 goes beyond to call upon GOSL to devolve political authority

25/L.1/REV.1 UNHRC Resolution titled “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka” was passed on 21 March 2014

  • Makes first reference to land use and ownership
  • Welcomed the elections held in Northern Provincial Council on 21 September 2013
  • Expressed concern on intimidation and retaliation against civil society engaged with UN human rights mechanisms
  • Raises new sets of concerns which are not-related to why the initial resolution was made against Sri Lanka. These new sets covered sexual and gender-based violence, violations of rights of freedom of expression, threats to judicial independence, intimidation of and reprisals against human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists, attacks against religious minority groups,
  • Called upon GOSL to again devolve political authority – to reach a political settlement on the devolution of powers to the provinces (again non-related to last phase of war on which the first Resolution was based)
  • While claiming as inadequate the national action plan the Resolution states that a comprehensive approach should cover 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,
  • The Resolution suggests Truth and Reconciliation Commission (ignoring that none of the many TRC’s established at colossal costs have served any purpose whatsoever – likely to be another trap for Sri Lanka)
  • Claiming that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has concluded that national mechanisms have consistently failed to establish the truth and to achieve justice (whereas none of the established TRCs recommended by the UN systems have succeeded either and questions what justice has prevailed through the UN when the numbers of conflicts have not decreased but have been consistently increasing)
  • Calls upon GOSL to conduct an independent and credible investigation on allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law (the latter does not come under the mandate of the UNHRC)
  • Again refers to non-last phase related items as alleged attacks on journalists, human rights defenders, religious minority groups, temples, mosques and churches, makes reference to a  public protest (Weliweriya), Resolution singles out ONLY the Northern Provincial council calling the GOSL to ensure the Council can operate effectively according to 13th amendment.
  • Mentions the UN High Commissioners conclusion on the need for an international inquiry mechanism in the absence of a credible national process
  • Office of High Commissioner is requested to monitor human rights situation in Sri Lanka, to undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties during the period covered by LLRC (2002 to 2009) and establish facts and circumstances of such alleged violations
  • Oral update to be presented at the 28th session by the Office of the High Commissioner

Lets not forget that the Resolutions were all started because of violations committed during the last phase of the war. As we proceed the last phase has got washed away and new sets of issues keep getting added on to every Resolution and then uses the 1st to claim Sri Lanka has not fulfilled its obligations!

Let’s also remind readers that the GOSL appointed a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission LLRC in March 2010 (less than a year after the end of the conflict). There was absolutely no requirement for the UN Secretary General to appoint a Panel of Experts in June 2010. Yet, he did but that appointment was to advise him on a conflict that had ended. It was unnecessary for Ban Ki Moon to appoint a Panel because it was wrong for him to expect a Government to compile a report on 30 years of terror in 2 months simply because he was in a hurry to appoint a Panel. This Panel of Experts is not sanctioned by the UN General Assembly or the UN Security Council but is a PERSONALLY COMMISSIONED PANEL appointed by the UN SECRETARY GENERAL. Therefore, there should have been no hype and no requirement for him to leak the report to the public domain. The man chosen to head the Panel is now said to take over from Pillay – don’t’ things run between the same people. Yet, the question is how can a personally commissioned report become the primary and principle source for successive country specific Resolutions against Sri Lanka? The entire UN system, the UN Human Rights Commissioner herself is making direct reference to a personally commissioned PoE report and based on that making determinations against Sri Lanka. This is totally unjust, uncalled for and violating the principles on which the UNHRC was established and mandated as well as the core principles on which the High Commissioner herself is to function.

The manner that the UNHRC and the High Commissioner has functioned has broken the rules of the Charter. The nature of the Resolutions, the illegalities and orders issued to Sri Lanka. http://www2.ohchr.org /english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/A.RES.60.251_En.pdf

The High Commissioner according to the Charter (3) a. has to Function within the framework of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other international instruments of human rights and international law, including the obligations, within this framework, to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and domestic jurisdiction of States and to promote the universal respect for and observance of all human rights, in the recognition that, in the framework of the purposes and principles of the Charter, the promotion and protection of all human rights is a legitimate concern of the international community; http://www.un.org/documents /ga/res/48/a48r141.htm Her bias towards Sri Lanka has been repeatedly brought out but nothing has been done.

Those that would quickly jump to say that the UNHRC can conduct investigations, here is a list of such investigations:

  • UN / UNHRC Commission of Inquiries:
  • 2006 – Palestine – ongoing conflict
  • 2006 – Lebanon – ongoing conflict
  • 2006 – Beit Hanoun – ongoing / how to protect Palestinians against Israel attacks – ongoing
  • 2006 – High Level Mission on the situation in Darfur –ongoing conflict
  • 2008 – Technical Assistance to the Democratic Republic of Congo and urgent examination on the situation in the east of the country –ongoing conflict
  • 2009 – UN fact finding mission on Gaza conflict –ongoing conflict
  • 2010 – Ivory Coast – again ONGOING
  • 2011 – UN independent Commission of Inquiry on Libya –ongoing conflict
  • 2011 – The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria –ongoing conflict
  • 2013 – North Korea – Ongoing

http://www.geneva-academy.ch /docs/news/HR-council-inquiry-conference-brief.pdf

But they have all been ONGOING cases. Sri Lanka’s terrorists and ground leadership including the key commanders of the LTTE were all killed. Remnants may remain but they are getting arrests just like Allies are arresting 90 year old Nazi’s.

Moreover, on what logic is one public protest (Weliweriya) mentioned when daily and consistently in America unarmed civilians are getting shot at inside church’s, schools and supermarkets and there are no Resolutions against the US a country that has over 2.4million prisoners with a poor human rights record warranting on what moral grounds US can draft Resolutions on other countries without putting its house in order?

The 2014 Resolution that has been passed has given the UN Human Rights Commissioner a MANDATE she DID NOT HAVE and SHOULD NOT HAVE over and above the other violations that have flowed with the successive Resolutions. It is a pity that the advisors of the Sri Lankan Government have not seen these aspects and completely ignored advice too.

Its time the GOSL start putting their heads together and along with the rest of the Third World ensure that the imperialist agenda does not tie up former colonies to a new neocolonial agenda under the auspices of the UN and its stooges.

Please refer : Dharshan Weerasekera’s arguments on the legality of the Resolutions.

http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2014/02/04/ the-uns-sri-lanka-strategy-and-its-implications-for-international-law/

http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2013/03/19/ the-illegality-of-un-secretary-general-ban-ki-moons-approach-to-sri-lanka/

– by Shenali D Waduge