Sri Lankan minister and cabinet spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella said his government would not “surrender” to the UN Human Rights Council, as Colombo continued to deny reports of war crimes committed by senior military officials who have been promoted to government positions.
Speaking to reporters, Rambukwella said “if we surrender as a country we would have to accept everything that is said by the UNHRC as true”.
His comments come after Sri Lankan told the UN Human Rights Council that reports of war crimes committed by its military are “unacceptable” and the regime defended its pardon of a Sri Lankan soldier who was convicted for war crimes. “In the absence of any substantive proof, Sri Lanka considers that the continued arbitrary accusations on crimes or crimes against humanity made against these senior military officials are unacceptable and a violation of the principles of natural justice,” Sri Lanka told the Council in Geneva.
“We have to decide whether we are going to surrender ourselves to that agenda,” continued Rambukwella, stating his government would not “fully accept” the UN human rights chief’s remarks on the island.
“The 30/1 resolution was brought in without the approval of the cabinet and it is that document that is still haunting us,” he added.
The resolution Rambukwella was referring to mandated a hybrid accountability mechanism for mass atrocities, which would include foreign judges and lawyers. Earlier this year, Sri Lanka announced that it was going to pull out of the resolution, with Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena telling the Council that Colombo’s withdrawal was “on record”.
Sri Lanka’s Director General of Government Information also said this week that though withdrawal from the resolution was already government policy, Colombo had not yet decided on withdrawal from the global body entirely. In May, Sri Lanka’s war crimes accused president Gotabaya Rajapaksa warned that he would withdraw his government from global bodies if attempts to prosecute Sri Lankan soldiers for war crimes are pursued.