South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) including some leading human rights groups have called for tough action on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) but Sri Lanka is expected to win wide support at the 34th session of the Council which begins tomorrow.

Several reports and written statements have been submitted to the Council ahead of the discussion on Sri Lanka scheduled for March 22.

Among the written statements submitted is one by the Northern Provincial Council through a foreign NGO.

In its written statement, the NPC has called upon the international community to set up an international tribunal to try those alleged to have committed international crimes against the Tamil People in Sri Lanka.

“We urge the new leaders of the Sri Lankan government to be courageous enough to work with the international community to set up a credible international mechanism which will deliver justice and put this nation on a path of meaningful reconciliation,” the NPC led by C. V. Wigneswaran has said.

The NPC notes that Sri Lanka has had a long and blighted history of human rights violations which initially manifested as discrimination against the Tamil minorities and over the course of six decades evolved into a full blown civil war marked by mass atrocities.

“In our Resolution passed on February 10, 2015, we characterized the treatment and continuous killings of Tamil people in Sri Lanka in the years since the independence of the country in 1948 as amounting to genocide under the Genocide Convention and under International Law. Under the Genocide Convention, the State of Sri Lanka bears responsibility for such genocide. Under International Law, as codified in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Code, actual perpetrators are responsible for the acts of genocide they had committed. The treatment of the Tamils by the Armed Forces and other agents of the Government of Sri Lanka involve the commission of other international crimes including crimes against humanity, torture, rape, enforced disappearances and the seizure of civilian land. The Council awaits the Report of the OISL of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights to be released on September 2015 which is due to identify the nature of the crimes committed and possibly, the alleged perpetrators,” NPC said.

In this context, members of the Northern Provincial Council believe that the trial of the alleged perpetrators should not take place through any mechanism instituted by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) as a State also incurs responsibility for the acts of its agents.

“Under these circumstances, the trial of the perpetrators of international crimes by a domestic mechanism would be a travesty of justice as it would amount to the potentially guilty government trying its own agents, thereby violating the prohibition in the maxim nemo iudex in sua causa,” NPC added.

Britain is to sponsor a new resolution on Sri Lanka at the UNHRC at the 34th session in Geneva.

The decision was communicated to the Council at the organisational meeting for the 34th session of the UNHRC held in Geneva recently.

The resolution will look to give Sri Lanka time to address the accountability issue on the war.

Ahead of the resolution being tabled, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera will address the council.

Samaraweera is to brief the council on the latest developments in Sri Lanka during the high level segment of the session on Tuesday, February 28.

He will also have talks with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Al Ra’ad Al Hussein.

The 34th session of the UNHRC takes place in Geneva from February 27 to March 24.

During the session, an interactive dialogue will be held on Sri Lanka on March 22.

The discussion will be based on the report on Sri Lanka submitted to the UN Human Rights Council last year by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In his report Zeid had expressed satisfaction on the efforts taken by the Government to address reconciliation issues. However, he had raised concerns over the slow progress on releasing more land held by the military. He had also raised concerns over the failure to abolish the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The United States had sponsored previous resolutions on Sri Lanka but with a change of a Government in the US this year there is no clear policy yet on how the US will deal with Sri Lanka on the human rights issue.

The 34th Council session will be opened tomorrow by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the President of the United Nations General Assembly Peter Thompson. This will be followed by a three-day high-level segment, during which senior dignitaries will address the 47-member Council on human rights matters of national and international interest and concern.  At 3p.m. on the same day, the Council will hold its annual high-level panel on human rights mainstreaming.  On Tuesday, February 28, and in the morning on Wednesday, March 1, the high-level segment will continue.

On Thursday, March 23 and Friday, March 24, the Human Rights Council will take action on draft resolutions.

The composition of the Human Rights Council at its thirty-fourth session is as follows: Albania, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, China, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, South Africa, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, and Venezuela.

Updated On:  February 26, 2017