Govt. To Get Geneva Report 48 Hrs In Advance
By Easwaran Rutnam
With the parliamentary election now done, the spotlight will be on Geneva where the highly controversial report on Sri Lanka will be made public.
Sources close to the Government and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that the report will come down hard, both on the LTTE and the former Mahinda Rajapaksa administration.
“The Government of Sri Lanka will get the report 48 hours before it is made public. It is not expected to be leaked before the launch,” the source said.
The report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was to be presented to the Government over the weekend or later this week and will be posted online ahead of the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva which begins on September 14.
The report was compiled based on evidence and statements submitted by witnesses and others on incidents related to the war.
Sources said that the report will make several recommendations on steps which need to be taken to hold those responsible for alleged human rights abuses during the war.
However the report will ensure the identity of those who submitted evidence is protected even if it raises concerns over transparency.
The UN Human Rights Council will discuss the much anticipated report on the war in Sri Lanka on September 30, during the 30th session of the UNHRC.
The draft agenda of the 30th session of the UNHRC notes that the report on Sri Lanka by the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights will be submitted by him on September 30, followed by a discussion.
The Government under Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has set in motion the mechanism as part of a domestic process to investigate the allegations on the war, in order to meet the expectations of OHCHR ahead of the September UN Human Rights Council session.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein had earlier said he expects mechanisms for accountability and reconciliation to be in place in Sri Lanka ahead of the September session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The newly appointed Government will now look to speed up the process as the international community place hope on the Government to ensure accountability.
In March 2014, the HRC adopted resolution A/HRC/25/1, requesting the United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights to “undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and to establish the facts and circumstances of such alleged violations and of the crimes perpetrated with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability”.
The mandate of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka included violations and abuses of international human rights law and breaches of international humanitarian law as well as related crimes.
In accordance with this resolution, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had established the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL).
The OISL was supported and advised throughout by three independent, distinguished experts, appointed by the High Commissioner in accordance with Resolution A/HRC/25/1: Martti Ahtisaari, Ms. Silvia Cartwright, and Ms. Asma Jahangir.
The period under investigation is that covered by the LLRC, that is, from February 21, 2002 until November 15, 2011, when it presented its report to the President of Sri Lanka. The OISL also took into consideration any contextual and other relevant information that fall outside this timeframe which may provide a better understanding of events or which may be pertinent regarding continuing human rights violations.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was to present a comprehensive written report on the outcome of the investigation to the HRC in March 2015, as per resolutionA/HRC/25/1.
However, the report was deferred to September after the government which took office in January this year, sought time to address the concerns on human rights.
Consistent with the practice of other United Nations fact-finding bodies, the investigations report by OHCHR claims to have based its findings on a “reasonable grounds to believe” standard of proof.
The experts of the investigations panel enjoyed the privileges and immunities accorded to experts on mission under Article IV of the 1948 Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the UN. All Governments were reminded of this obligation when the investigation was launched and invited to ensure that facilities necessary for the independent conduct of the investigation are provided.
The opposition United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) said the August 17 Parliament election was timed to take place before the report on Sri Lanka by OHCHR was released.
Threat to Sri Lanka
UPFA member Dullas Alahapperuma raised fears that the report on Sri Lanka will pose a threat to Sri Lanka.
The report, Alahapperuma says, is expected to accuse some officials and individuals of war crimes and that this had been confirmed by former Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon this week encouraged the new government in Sri Lanka to make further progress on accountability.
He had said this in a statement issued after the August 17 parliamentary election, but the UN said the war crimes report had not been discussed when Ban had later telephoned the President to personally congratulate him on the peaceful conduct of the parliamentary election.
Tamil Diaspora groups have meanwhile urged OHCHR to ensure the September report on Sri Lanka reveals the full force and mandate of the resolution adopted at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last year.
In March 2014, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted resolution 25/1 entitled “Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka”.
The Canadian Tamil Congress noted that the resolution requested the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “to undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of Human Rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka”. As the HRC sits June 15 for its 29th regular session, Tamils from Sri Lanka and around the world are hopeful that this session will be used to strengthen the report.
CTC said that while acknowledging it was a difficult decision to defer the report “one time only”, the High Commissioner had stressed the possibility that new information may emerge which would strengthen the report.
“We understand that since then, new information has been provided by various parties. Stating also that he has received a clear commitment from the newly elected Sri Lankan government to cooperate with the office on a whole range of Human Rights issues – which the previous government absolutely refused to do – the High Commissioner was keen on engaging with the new government to ensure those commitments translate into actions,” the Canadian Tamil Congress said.
While there has been doubt cast by a few as to whether the report will be postponed, the Canadian Tamil Congress feels that the Commissioner will stay true to his word and release report come September. In that same vein, the Canadian Tamil Congress strongly requested OHCHR to do its utmost to ensure the September report reveals the full force and mandate of the 2014 resolution.
Earlier this month Tamil National Alliance (TNA) member of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) M K Shivajilingam had written to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, urging him to ensure the investigations on the war is purely an international judicial process.
In his letter, Shivajilingam noted that the UN’s failure to protect the Tamil people in 2009 was termed as “systemic failure” of the UN by the UN’s own “Report of the UN Secretary General’s Internal Review Panel on UN Action in Sri Lanka” released in November 2012 by the head of the Panel Charles Petrie.
He said the Tamil people sincerely hope that the UN System will not victimise the Tamils again and hope the UN will accommodate their request to adequately and properly conduct the judicial process, and offer them justice and future protection.
Shivajilingam told Zeid that as he prepares to release the Report by the OISL, the pattern of historic failures of Sri Lanka against the Tamil people should be looked into. Sri Lanka had conducted numerous commissions and inquiries against the killing of Tamils, without any meaningful results. To manage the International pressure it even conducted “Inquiry” with International Independent Group of Eminent persons from 11 countries as monitors, but they all resigned in protest against Sri Lanka in 2008 pointing to the lack of cooperation, transparency and political will from Sri Lanka to support the search for truth towards justice.
Shivajilingam says the Tamil people do not believe that anything short of an international judicial process will be seen as justice to the victimised Tamil population.
He also called on the High Commissioner to take measures to judicially address the genocide against the Tamil people as called upon by the unanimous resolution adopted by the Northern Provincial Council of Sri Lanka in February 2015.