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‘Chance for Australians to show leadership’ at UNHRC

The Australian director at Human Rights Watch has called upon the government to “show leadership” on human rights in Sri Lanka, by co-sponsoring a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, which is due to be voted on this week.

Writing in the Guardian, Elaine Pearson said Australia, which is bidding for a seat on the council in 2018, has been “shamefully non committal” and urged it to use “public and private pressure” on Sri Lanka, including co-sponsoring a resolution.

Extracts from her piece, “If Australia wants to stop the boats, it must stand against abuses in Sri Lanka”, have been reproduced below. See the full piece here.

"There is a chance for Australians to show leadership on the topic of human rights and justice in Sri Lanka. On 26 March, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva will vote on a resolution about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka."

"Australia has taken the position that cosying up to the government of president Mahinda Rajapaksa is the best way to stop the flow of asylum seekers. Instead, Australia has a chance to demonstrate its concern for the Sri Lankan victims of its long and deadly civil war by co-sponsoring the resolution."

"Australia is not a council member, and thus cannot vote, but it can lend diplomatic support through co-sponsoring the resolution. In 2012 and 2013, Australia did so. So far, on the current text, the Australian government has been shamefully noncommittal."

"The commission issued recommendations in 2011. The two past Human Rights Council resolutions, co-sponsored by Australia in 2012 and 2013, have also called upon the government to implement these recommendations, but the Sri Lankan government has displayed no political will to do so."

"Concerned governments have been patient with Sri Lanka. Now is the time for Australia to join other countries in upping the pressure on Sri Lanka by ensuring what the government steadfastly refuses to do. Australia’s foreign policy seems fixated with policies that prevent asylum seekers from reaching its shores. In the long term, what would be more effective is using the right mix of public and private pressure and concerted international action to stop countries like Sri Lanka from committing the abuses that cause people to flee."

"Australia is bidding for a seat on the Human Rights Council in 2018. If it’s serious about its bid, it needs to show leadership and be more proactive in addressing human rights crises in the region, rather than sitting back and letting other countries take the lead and the heat for raising abuses."