Published in The Colombo Page on Feb. 08 ::
When the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) opens its 28th session in Geneva in March this year, a new UN report on Sri Lanka on the US-sponsored UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka is expected to be tabled.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein is scheduled to present the investigative report on the investigation mandated by the UNHRC on allegations of war crimes committed in the last seven years of the war by both the government and the Tamil Tiger terrorists.
According to media reports, the United States, sponsor of the resolution, has decided to allow the newly elected government in Sri Lanka time to fulfil its commitment with regard to the UN resolution and request the UNHRC to postpone the presenting of the review report until the next session in September this year.
The US and its allies want to postpone the presentation to September, to give the new democratic and pro-Western government of Sri Lanka sufficient time to put in place a credible domestic mechanism to investigate the alleged war crime charges.
US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Nisha Biswal has hinted that US may seek to postpone the review report when she met with the leaders of Sri Lanka Tamil party, Tamil national Alliance (TNA) during her recent visit to the island after the presidential election.
Reportedly, the US was happy with the exit of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s hostile government and sees a bright future for US-Lanka relations during the tenure of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and does not want to “topple the Lankan apple cart” at this time.
It has been reported that the Sri Lankan leadership has also warned the US that strong action at the UNHRC accusing Sri Lanka of war crimes will be exploited by ultra nationalist forces opposed to Tamils, which could in turn bring former President Rajapaksa back to power through the parliamentary elections expected to be held in June.
According to a report in Ceylon Today, the US has ‘virtually agreed’ to give time for Sri Lanka to fulfil its commitments after the new government requested for a one-year grace period to “work on a credible investigation”.
However, the TNA, fearing that the Tamil issue will be brushed aside, is reportedly trying to counter the US move to postpone the presentation of the report “Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka”, which has been prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at the request of the UNHRC.
TNA parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran is currently in Geneva lobbying at the UNHRC for release of the UN’s investigative report of the resolution, reports said.
According to a report in New Indian Express, TNA fears that a postponement may lead to the report being brushed under the carpet and the US wanting to keep the pro-Western politicians in power in Sri Lanka perpetually may opt for a compromise with them on the Tamil question.
The US has said that a revised UN report could be presented at the UNHRC’s September session taking into account the measures taken by the Lankan government between now and September to fulfill its commitments to the UNHRC.
Meanwhile, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, while welcoming the Sri Lankan government’s decision to initiate a local probe into the alleged war crimes, has said that he will stand by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Chief’s call for Sri Lanka to cooperate with the UN inquiry.