A United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution on accountability in Sri Lanka, will ensure that the country is kept “firmly on the UNHRC agenda” said British Minister of State for South Asia Lord Ahmad, in a letter this week, as the UK continued to decline referring Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In response to a letter from Christy Nilani Kandeeban, a spokesperson from the International Centre for the Prevention of Genocide (ICPPG) and British Tamil hunger striker Ambihai Selvakumar, Lord Ahmad stated that “achieving justice, peace and accountability… is a long standing priority for the UK”.
“We have highlighted our concerns about the lack of progress towards accountability and the wider human rights situation,” he continued. “We will continue to press for a strong role for the UNHRC to help deliver accountability and reconciliation and ensure the protection of human rights in Sri Lanka.”
The minister went on to state that a new resolution at the UNHRC “will stress the importance of a comprehensive accountability process for all violations… keep Sri Lanka firmly on the UNHRC agenda and will request continued and enhanced OHCHR reporting on the human rights situation and on accountability”.
“Importantly, it will also strengthen the capacity of OHCHR to consolidate, preserve and analyse information and evidence to support future accountability processes,” he added.
However, the minister went on to note that the UK would not refer the situation in Sri Lanka to the ICC, claiming that the move would not have “sufficient support among [UN] Security Council members”. “It would not help accountability in Sri Lanka for an ICC referral to fail to win Security Council support or be vetoed,” he continued.
“In regards to establishing an International Independent Investigative Mechanism, we agree on the importance of preserving information and evidence gathered so far,” the minister added. “Our draft resolution therefore requests OHCHR to consolidate, analyse and preserve this information so it can be used in future accountability processes. This will build on the work of previous resolutions, including the 2014 resolution which mandated a comprehensive OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL).”
The minister also claimed that the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur for Sri Lanka would not be needed, as “the High Commissioner for Human Rights is herself at the forefront of the UN’s efforts”.
Ahmad went on to state that “we do not think it is realistic to include a reference to a referendum on Tamil self-determination in the draft UNHRC resolution,” claiming that “we continue to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to deliver on reconciliation and political inclusion for all Sri Lankans”.
“Please be assured that justice, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka will remain a priority for the UK government,” the letter concluded.
See the full text of the letter here.