UN begins monitoring Sri Lanka after adverse resolution at rights body: Report

Colombo, Mar 24 (PTI) The critical resolution against Sri Lanka’s human rights policies which was adopted by the UNHRC will take immediate effect with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights beginning the process to closely monitor the country, according to a media report on Wednesday.

The resolution titled Promotion of Reconciliation Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka’ was adopted by the 47-member Human Rights Council after 22 members voted in favour of the document at the ongoing 46th UNHRC session in Geneva on Tuesday.

India and Japan were among 14 countries which abstained from voting. Eleven countries, including Pakistan, China, Bangladesh and Russia, voted against the resolution.

The resolution “will take immediate effect with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) beginning the process to closely monitor Sri Lanka”, the Daily Mirror reported, citing UN sources.

“Monitoring Sri Lanka will be carried out immediately with existing staff while other related work will be implemented once the UN General Assembly approves funding later this year,” the paper said.

The resolution may not have an immediate impact on Sri Lanka but with over 40 co-sponsors, sources said that in the long term there could be an impact on trade with some countries and travel restrictions imposed on some officials as a result of the resolution, the paper reported.

The US, EU and a number of other countries were among the co-sponsors of the resolution, some with no voting rights in the UNHRC.

The resolution has called on the OHCHR to enhance its monitoring and reporting on the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka, including on progress in reconciliation and accountability, and to present an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its 48th session, as well as a written update at its 49th session.

The resolution was adopted despite intense lobbying by the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who had dubbed it as an act of political vendetta moved by the Western nations against Sri Lanka.

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that the majority of the countries in the UNHRC did not back the resolution.

“They (sponsors of the resolution against Sri Lanka) could harness only 22 votes, 25 countries do not approve it,” Gunawardena told reporters on Tuesday.

“Western South wants to dominate the global North” at a time the priority before all countries was to tackle COVID-19 pandemic by arranging vaccination, he said.

He said the European nations have failed to understand the ground reality of peace in Sri Lanka achieved after ending the LTTE’s separatist campaign in 2009.

Sri Lanka’s ambassador to UNHRC, M.C.A. Chandraprema, described the draft resolution as “unwarranted, unjustified and in violations of the relevant articles of the United Nations’ Charter “

He rejected the resolution as “divisive”, saying it will polarise the Sri Lankan society and adversely affect the economic development, peace and harmony.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s media of three major languages Sinhala, Tamil and English – on Wednesday reported the outcome of the resolution, with the Tamil press largely welcomed the document but remained unsure about its direction in terms of implementation.

While the majority Sinhala language newspapers appeared to show the resolution as one against Sri Lanka, the English papers dissected the content of the resolution.

“India, Japan skip vote on Sri Lanka resolution adopted at UNHRC, read the headline of The Island. The defeat was the fourth suffered by Sri Lanka at the UNHRC since 2012, the paper said.

Sri Lanka was earlier defeated at three consecutive resolutions at the UN rights body when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s elder brother and incumbent Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was the country’s president between 2012 and 2014.

India’s decision to abstain from voting was questioned by a section of the Tamil media based both in Colombo and in the Northern capital of Jaffna. The Tamil press reporting on the outcome was positive in their quest to deliver justice to victims of the three-decade long civil war.

Tamil activists were commenting on social media that India’s abstention was meant to keep both the government and the main Tamil party TNA happy. They questioned how many member states abstained influenced by India’s decision to abstain? One strong poser was if India had weakened the resolution so that it can comfortably abstain.

“This was a significant move by the HRC which signals a shift in approach by the international community. This resolution should send a clear message to perpetrators of past and current crimes that they cannot continue to act with impunity, tweeted Abraham Sumanthiran, the TNA leading light.

The Tamil activists also queried what would the resolution entail? If it would subject Sri Lanka’s alleged perpetrators to universal jurisdiction by a referral to the international crime court.

The English press opined that the resolution does not impose any sanctions on Sri Lanka. It said that the UN will create an office with an annual budget of USD 2.8 million to collect information about war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the country.

The Tamils alleged that thousands were massacred during the final stages of the war that ended in 2009 when the government forces killed LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.

The Sri Lankan Army denies the charge, claiming it as a humanitarian operation to rid the Tamils of LTTE”s control.