South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in The Sunday Leader by Easwaran Rutnam ::

The Sri Lankan Government has been pushing for the report on the investigations over the war, scheduled to be submitted at the UN Human Rights Council on March 25, to be deferred, but the report is still on the agenda.

The Council will hold its twenty-eighth session from 2 to 27 March 2015 at the United Nations Office at Geneva.

UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon, in a note on the agenda for the twenty-eighth session, has listed the report on Sri Lanka as part of the topics to be discussed at the session.

In its resolution 25/1 last March, the Human Rights Council requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to monitor the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, to undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations of human rights during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and to present a comprehensive report followed by a discussion on the implementation of that resolution at its twenty-eighth session.

Accordingly, Ban ki-moon’s note says the Council will consider the report of OHCHR (A/HRC/28/23), followed by a discussion.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, who was in the US last week, had called for the presentation of the report to be postponed and assured that steps will be taken in the coming weeks to begin the process of setting up necessary mechanisms to investigate into incidents, and where sufficient evidence is available, conduct criminal prosecution in such cases.

“We will engage with the international community in this process including the United Nations and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,” Samaraweera said at a discussion in the US.

He said that additionally, discussions will commence during the end of this month with officials from South Africa to institute a truth-seeking mechanism suitable for Sri Lanka’s circumstances, which will function in parallel to the accountability mechanism.

Unlike the South African version, he said it will not be for the purpose of amnesty but to facilitate the healing and reconciliation process of the victims.

The Government will also explore ways and means to harness the potential of the Sri Lankan diaspora to contribute to local reconciliation and development efforts.

“There are still some extremist elements within and outside the country who, for obvious reasons, want this journey derailed. Therefore, I urge you to allow us time and space while supporting us in this journey of national reconciliation and healing, institution building and regaining the true Sri Lankan identity,” Samaraweera told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

However while the Government is looking for the report on Sri Lanka by the UN investigations team to be deferred, the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) passed a strongly worded resolution last week demanding that investigations over alleged “genocide” of Tamils be conducted and the perpetrators be taken before the international criminal court.

NPC member M. K. Sivajilingham told The Sunday Leader that the resolution, which he had attempted to submit to the council on several occasions over the past one year, was amended and proposed to the Council last week by Northern Province Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran.

The Tamil National Alliance had earlier felt that the resolution was too strong and should be amended and held back till the UN-led investigations on the war in Sri Lanka concludes.

Sivajilingham said that the 11 page amended resolution was unanimously passed by the NPC after a debate and statements were made in the council.

The resolution noted that the obligation to prevent and punish genocide under the Genocide Convention is not a matter of political choice or calculation, but one of binding customary international law.

In the resolution, the NPC urged the team appointed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate the war in Sri Lanka, to comprehensively investigate and report on the charge of genocide in its submission to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2015.

“During the war, government military forces engaged in deliberate aerial, artillery, and naval bombardment of civilian areas and also used prohibited weapons and ammunitions, such as cluster bombs. According to UN estimates, 60 100,000 Tamil civilians were killed over the course of the 27-year-long war. The large scale and severe nature of the genocide also forced many Tamils to flee the North East Provinces and seek refuge in Tamil Nadu and Western countries,” the resolution said.

It also said that the UN Security Council should refer the situation in Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court for prosecutions based on war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide adding that alternatively or concurrently, domestic courts in countries that may exercise universal jurisdiction over the alleged events and perpetrators, including but not limited to the United States, should prosecute these crimes.

The Government rejected the resolution but Wigneswaran stood by it, saying it echoed the sentiments of the Tamils. Wigneswaran also got the support of the Tamil diaspora for the resolution. The diaspora have been demanding an international probe on the war and for the report to be presented as scheduled next month.

The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), in an email to The Sunday Leader, said it had passed a resolution welcoming the Northern Provincial Council’s resolution that called the atrocities committed on the Tamils as “genocide.”

TGTE said the statements in the NPC clearly show that the Tamils in Sri Lanka and the diaspora community jointly seek remedial justice from the international investigation for the atrocities committed on the Tamils.

It said the Resolution also demonstrates the political courage of the Northern Provincial Council.

Meanwhile a spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the UN chief wants to see accountability in Sri Lanka over the war.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, responding to a question posed at a press briefing last Thursday said that the Secretary-General’s position on the human rights investigation is unchanged.

“He’s obviously aware that the new administration is considering setting domestic accountability mechanisms and will be carefully assessing these developments.  The Secretary‑General has stressed the importance of Sri Lanka establishing credible mechanisms that meet international standards.  Advancing accountability, like other parts of the post‑war agenda in Sri Lanka, will lay the basis for the country to make further progress on peace, democracy and development,” Dujarric said.

He added that the UN stands ready, as always, to support Sri Lanka’s efforts to address the post‑war agenda as they have consistently affirmed.


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