It Is An Extremely Serious Situation – David Daly
By Camelia Nathaniel
With the UNHRC passing the resolution against Sri Lanka calling for a credible investigation into alleged human rights abuses, there has been talk that economic sanctions would be imposed on Sri Lanka. So far, there are no signs of such sanctions and several foreign politicians have indicated that there was never any plan to impose such sanctions on Sri Lanka.
With the Sri Lankan government banning 16 organisations and over 400 individuals linked to terrorism, there have been mixed reactions from various countries. For instance, the government’s ban on 16 Tamil Diaspora groups suspected of organizations affiliated with or supporting the defunct Tamil Tiger terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has come under severe criticism from Canada.
In an interview with The Sunday Leader, EU Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the EU to Sri Lanka and the Maldives David Daly said that the EU is willing to assist Sri Lanka in its post war efforts and its reconciliation process. Daly is of the view that Sri Lanka should comply with the UN resolution and conduct a credible investigation. He added that accountability for allegations of very serious human rights violations and violations of humanitarian law require investigation and follow up.
Following are excerpts:
Q. Post Geneva, has the resolution, in any way, affected the ties between Sri Lanka and the EU?
A. I would say, firstly, that we are working on a good engagement with Sri Lanka, despite the fact that we may see things differently on some very important issues. Nonetheless, on both sides, we realise the value of stronger dialogue and that is certainly what I promote. We had a high level dialogue last year, in Sri Lanka, which was the first time in a number of years and we are already working on a follow up to that this year.
Has the resolution complicated things? I would say that the essence of diplomatic work is precisely to engage on difficult issues, and that is the work of diplomats. It’s important to have that dialogue in order to understand each other better and to know the constraints that people are under and, of course, to try and convince them of your way of looking at the issue. This must be a two way dialogue. We will pursue the path of constructive dialog with Sri Lanka, notwithstanding points of disagreement.
Q. Does the EU feel that more needs to be done in the North of Sri Lanka in order to facilitate proper reconciliation?
A. It’s clear that the Sri Lankan government is doing a lot of things, particularly on the development side. A lot of infrastructure development has taken place. A lot of work has gone into resettlement and the EU has also participated in that through building 20,000 houses for resettled families and, in fact, we are working toward increasing that figure to around 23,000 houses.
The government is taking up many of the issues of the LLRC, and the indications we get are that the implementation of those recommendations is going slowly and it would be good to quicken the pace. There are also things like the commission on disappearances which is a good thing but needs to be strengthened as a body which is a huge challenge.
Of course, the government had organised elections in the Northern Province last year and, again, that’s something to be applauded, in our view. It has also created new political opportunities. We urge all sides to seize these political opportunities and to use them constructively as part of the reconciliation process, which, in our view, should have a strong political process at its heart.
Talking about what is left to be done, it is vital that the day to day protection of human rights is secured. All countries, including EU member states, faced the challenge of living up to the human rights values. In Europe, we build ourselves strong institutions to help investigate, prosecute and bring to conclusion allegations of human rights abuses.
For Sri Lanka, too, we feel the need for strong democratic institutions, each respecting its own competence. Then, you have the underlying issues of political grievances which need to be addressed in any post war situation. This is a full range of issues in itself.
As part of that, in our view, accountability for allegations of very serious human rights violations and violations of humanitarian law require investigation and follow up. If these are left undone, our own experience of history proves that you run the risk of having grievances fester and getting worse over time and that can affect the long term stability and prosperity of any country.
Q. How does the EU feel about the imposition of economic sanctions on Sri Lanka?
A. It is an extremely serious situation and is too early to say what failure to cooperate in an investigation would lead to. I would not want to get into a discussion on sanctions.
The EU strongly encourages the Sri Lanka government to strongly engage with the UN on the resolution and to use that as an opportunity both to conduct a domestic investigation which is urged under paragraph 2 of the resolution as well as cooperating with the investigation which is now being tasked by the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. We would strongly urge the government of Sri Lanka to take the opportunities and act on those aspects of the resolution. We should not forget that this is an extremely serious situation. The world, collectively, and the international community, have given ourselves a framework which is the UN and we have given the UN a particular tool which is the Human Rights Council to monitor and access these issues and that body has now voted for the third year in a row on a resolution for Sri Lanka and this year’s resolution contains those elements of investigations.
It is an extremely serious situation and is too early to say what failure to cooperate in an investigation would lead to. I would not want to get into a discussion on sanctions.
Q. How does the EU view and feel about the meeting held last Thursday with the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka?
A. Last Thursday’s briefing from the foreign minister was much appreciated by the diplomatic corps, because the action taken by Sri Lanka has significance for citizens of the EU. It was a briefing of general nature, I would say, but he said, clearly, that Sri Lanka was open to sharing the evidence that the Sri Lankan government had found with other countries including the European countries.
As we know, the LTTE is a banned organisation throughout the EU. To change the status of an organisation today is practically illegal as those Tamil Diaspora organisations are legal. To change that status is an extremely serious issue which the governments of the EU take very seriously. The meeting was welcome, but it was not a meeting where precise evidence was given to individual countries.
Q. With these 16 organisations being listed by the Sri Lankan government, how does the EU propose to assist Sri Lanka in apprehending these listed parties, or how do you propose to assist the Sri Lankan government in this issue?
A. That cannot be answered in the absence of evidence. It’s extremely serious as these organisations are today operating legally in these countries. It is up to the Sri Lankan government to provide compelling evidence through the appropriate channels and, if that evidence is found compelling by European governments, then they will act on it.