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Government Scores

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera visited the United States and Britain as part of the push to have the March report postponed. He also wrote to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ZeidRa’ad Al Hussein acknowledging some incidents did take place during the war and expressed interest to obtain technical assistance for the domestic investigation “In addition, I have received clear commitments from the new Government of Sri Lanka indicating it is prepared to cooperate with my Office on a whole range of important human rights issues – which the previous Government had absolutely refused to do – and I need to engage with them to ensure those commitments translate into reality.”

-  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

ZeidRa’ad Al Hussein

By Easwaran Rutnam

The Government last week scored heavily in the international arena after the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) backed a request to defer a crucial report based on investigations conducted over the war in Sri Lanka.

Heavy lobbying by the Government through the Foreign Ministry saw the report, which was to be submitted to the UNHRC next month, being pushed back to September.

As a result of this move, the Government has now been given six months to complete a credible domestic investigation on some of the incidents alleged to have taken place during the war.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera visited the United States and Britain as part of the push to have the March report postponed.

He also wrote to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights ZeidRa’ad Al Hussein acknowledging some incidents did take place during the war and expressed interest to obtain technical assistance for the domestic investigation.

The Foreign Minister also noted in his letter that the Government will invite to the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances to visit Sri Lanka before September.

The Working Group had sought a visit to Sri Lanka when the former Government was in power but had not received a positive response to the request.

Al Hussein was satisfied with the commitments given by the new Government. Last Monday he recommended to the UNHRC that the report be postponed till the September UNHRC session. The Council agreed.

“In addition, I have received clear commitments from the new Government of Sri Lanka indicating it is prepared to cooperate with my Office on a whole range of important human rights issues – which the previous Government had absolutely refused to do – and I need to engage with them to ensure those commitments translate into reality.”

The High Commissioner noted that the three distinguished experts, who were appointed by his predecessor Navi Pillay to advise the investigation, had informed him that, in their unanimous view, a one-off temporary deferral would be the best option to allow space for the new Government to show its willingness to cooperate on human rights issues.

Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleke is of the opinion the move to defer the report can be seen as a “mixed blessing”.

Dr. Jayatilleke was the Ambassador in Geneva when in 2009 the then Government managed to defeat an attempt to censure Sri Lanka on the human rights issue.

“The decision to defer is a mixed blessing, if blessing it is. As the High Commissioner’s letter to the President of the Council notes, he expects the intermission to yield up new information which can strengthen the Report which he pledges to submit in September. Furthermore, in his own letter to the High Commissioner, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera expresses the government’s intention to work with the High Commissioner and his Office in developing a domestic mechanism on accountability. So Sri Lanka will lose out on two fronts: the domestic mechanism which will be put in place within the six months, will not be a purely domestic inquiry as envisaged in the LLRC but will be something of a joint venture, designed in partnership with the UN High Commissioner’s Office, while the High Commissioner’s Report which will definitely be presented in September, will be further strengthened by greater access and new information flows. No wonder then that Mr Sumanthiran of the TNA welcomed the deferment saying it meant that the new Government had accepted the principle and legitimacy of a UN report and that the interregnum provided a greater opportunity for the TNA/the Northern Tamil community, “Dr Jayatilleke told The Sunday Leader.

Not all are happy that the report was postponed. The Tamil diaspora reacted strongly to the decision.Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Suresh Premachandran said that the decision to postpone the report will be a setback to resolve the Tamil issue.

“The TNA will discuss this matter and seek a meeting with the council soon to raise our concerns. If some countries have backed this postponement then it is totally unacceptable. This is going to be a setback to resolve the Tamil issue in the country. Unfortunately justice has been delayed,” Premachandran said.

The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam, a diaspora group based in the US also agreed. It expressed its profound disappointment at the announcement by the UN High Commissionerof Human Rights that he has sought to delay an important report into human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, a report the Human Rights Council originally directed in Resolution 25/1 be filed this March.

The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam said it is not aware of the High Commissioner consulting with the victims of past or ongoing abuses regarding this delay.

The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam implored the Human Rights Council to reverse its decision to grant the request of the High Commissioner and require the report to be filed as originally mandated. In the alternative, the Transnational Government requested that the High Commissioner be asked to provide an oral report to the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council followed by a full and transparent discussion of the issue.

The United States, the main force behind the move for a UN-led team to conduct the investigation on Sri Lanka and submit a report next month, commended the pledges made – and initial steps taken – by the new Sri Lankan government to revive Sri Lanka’s democracy, improve governance, support credible justice and accountability mechanisms, enhance the protection of human rights, and facilitate reconciliation after nearly 30 years of war.

Keith Harper, the US representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva said that the US supports the consensus decision taken by the Human Rights Council on the report on Sri Lanka.

“We encourage the Sri Lankan Government to use the time between now and the release of the report to work jointly with OHCHR to achieve these shared goals, and – when the report is released – to duly consider the recommendations contained therein,” he said.

As a main sponsor of resolution 25/1, the United States believes in the importance of the work that the High Commissioner and his team have undertaken.

“We very much look forward to the publication of OHCHR’s report later this year. When the Council provided this mandate to OHCHR, we entrusted the High Commissioner to discharge it faithfully. The United States continues to trust in the High Commissioner in this regard. We are willing to be guided by his judgment as to how to best fulfill this mandate,” he added.

Harper said that the US joined the consensus decision to extend the time to release the OHCHR report based on the reasons that the High Commissioner offered. He said the US hopes that new information becomes available that will enable the report to provide the Council and the people of Sri Lanka a more complete picture of what occurred.

He also said that the United States government is steadfast in its commitment to ensuring accountability, justice, reconciliation, and respect for human rights for all the people of Sri Lanka.

“We are confident that the efforts here in Geneva will enable the international community and the Government of Sri Lanka to work together to realise these shared objectives,” he added.

Meanwhile the London based Amnesty International said that the decision by the UN Human Rights Council to delay, until September, the release of a key report into widespread human rights violations during the conflict in Sri Lanka, must not allow the perpetrators of horrific crimes during the country’s armed conflict to escape punishment.

“Sri Lankan victims of human rights violations deserve truth and justice. Survivors of torture, including sexual abuse, people whose family members were killed or forcibly disappeared have waited a long time for this report,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

“A delay is only justifiable if more time will lead to a stronger document and to a concrete commitment by the new Sri Lankan authorities to actively pursue accountability. This includes by co-operating with the UN to investigate conflict-era abuses and bring perpetrators to justice.”

Amnesty International said the Human Rights Council must also be vigilant and ensure that all those coming forward to give testimony are protected from any potential threats from those who do not want justice to prevail. Deputy Foreign Minister Ajith Perera, speaking to reporters last week, said that several countries have commended the new Government over the efforts it has taken to address human rights concerns.

He said that Japan and India were among the countries which praised the new Government over the efforts it has taken within a short period of time.

He said that the Ambassador of Japan, Nobuhito Hobo met him last week and said that the Government had achieved a “diplomatic victory” over a short period of time. Perera said that he had also met the Deputy Indian High Commissioner in Colombo Arindam Bagchi who had offered Indian assistance to the new Government.

 

3 Comments for “Government Scores”

  1. Pieter Seebregts

    Well done Mr. Samaraweera………Sri Lanka deserves the best

  2. Why only a report of war crimes by Rajapsa regime? What about post 1977 JR era where thousands of JVP and 1lTTe were shot , burnt on tyres? The UNO is partial to support US Acolytes. What about the mass millions killed by illegal wars in Afghaistan, Iraq, Libya , innAfrica and South america including CIA assasinations?
    Rajapksa had the right to denyVisas to UN who is interfering in internal affairs and not US and the NATO.
    Besides Sri Lanka had like USA not ratified ICJ.
    The Promise of a Sri Lanka inquiry is to commit Rajapksas guilty by a commision of acolytes of the Siriesena and The UNP. In a war agaist Terror is difficult to choose and seperate terrorits and USa and Its partners are bombing even now in the Middle East. Un is defunct and an american tool

  3. anpu

    “…Dr. Dayan Jayatilleke is of the opinion the move to defer the report can be seen as a “mixed blessing”…”

    The learned gentleman is wrong in his assessment. He has to recognise that the matter has already been taken over by UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Any of its report, without SL participation and input, is bound to be worse for SL than if it has been with SL input. Previous position of ‘catch me if you can’ will not definitely be good for the new government of SL with constant tussle with UN.

    Whatever had happened in 2009 had happened presumably even ‘without witness to war’ has been fully witnessed by the bird and SLArmy. Good to deal with it instead of pussyfooting. It will have a cleansing effect to all of the people of Sri Lanka.

    Indeed the present government had scored a victory by getting the report deferred.

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