'India should assert leadership at UNHRC'

Writing in the Indian Express, Maja Daruwala, director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, has called on India to assert leadership at the UN Human Rights Council and call for accountability in Sri Lanka. Extracts have been reproduced below. See the full piece here . " The time has come for India to be bolder and more confident on human rights at the international level. Its growing stature in international affairs demands this leadership position. The current session of the UN Human Rights Council presents India with an excellent opportunity to move towards a foreign policy that truly befits the world’s largest democracy. It should seize the opportunity and vote in favour of accountability in Sri Lanka." " Unfortunately, the proposed resolution does not go far enough. It will not immediately call for direly needed international investigations — a bitter disappointment. In this context, the proposed resolution must not preclude future UNHRC efforts that demand justice, accountability and international investigations in Sri Lanka. The resolution should be voted on only as a first step in the right direction, and not as a final step to water down scrutiny or as a tactic to delay urgently needed justice in Sri Lanka. " "From India’s point of view, the resolution is saying nothing that India has not ostensibly been asking of Sri Lanka both publicly and privately — real accountability and soon. A stable, well-governed neighbour is in India’s interest as a regional power. Stability requires that alienated populations experience justice for the past and in the future. Denials, diplomatic spin and cosmetic efforts that paper over past misdeeds cannot achieve this. Today, only a negative peace exists in Sri Lanka. "

Resolution on Sri Lanka tabled at UNHRC

The United States has submitted a resolution on Sri Lanka to the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, as pressure continues to mount on the Sri Lankan government. The resolution, tabled earlier on Wednesday, notes “with concern” that the LLRC did not address “ serious allegations of violations of international law ” and called for “ credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation ”. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is also called on to provide “advice and technical assistance” to Sri Lanka and present a report to the council by the twenty-second session. See full text of the resolution below.

Former cricket captain pledges to defend President against war crimes tribunal

A former captain of the Sri Lankan cricket team and current Member of Parliament has vowed to disallow any movement towards a war crimes tribunal on Sri Lanka. Arjuna Ranatunga, who led the 1996 World Cup winning cricket team, spoke at a public meeting in Matugama regarding action at the UN Human Rights Council. Ranatunga dismissed the notion that President Mahinda Rajapaksa or other Army commanders could face charges of war crimes or crimes against humanity, stating that, "We will not allow any Sri Lankan to be hauled before a war tribunal at any time." Ranatunga is a member of the...

Tamil diaspora groups welcome draft resolution as first step

In a joint statement published Wednesday, four leading Tamil diaspora groups working together in Geneva at the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council - British Tamils Forum (BTF), Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC), Tamil Youth Organisation UK (TYO UK) and US Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) - welcomed the draft resolution tabled on Sri Lanka as a "glimpse of hope". Full text reproduced below: Tamils Welcome the Proposed US Resolution on Sri Lanka Joint Statement by British Tamils Forum (BTF), Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC), Tamil Youth Organisation UK (TYO UK) and US Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC) March 7th, 2012 - Geneva, Switzerland We welcome the proposed resolution by the Government of the United States of America at the 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council towards holding all parties to the conflict accountable during the last phases of the war in Sri Lanka. The resolution offers a glimpse of hope for those affected by the conflict and sets in motion appropriate steps that could assist in long term peace and reconciliation in post-war Sri Lanka. Three years after the end of the bloody civil war, Sri Lanka has failed to establish the necessary preconditions for reconciliation to occur. While the government appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has been held out as the cornerstone of Sri Lanka’s accountability and reconciliation strategy, it falls short in addressing critical issues of accountability. Sri Lanka has been given the appropriate time and space to offer a path towards peace and reconciliation, but has failed to do so. Whilst we have serious concerns regarding the independence of the LLRC and its failure to address the credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the implementation of the LLRC’s constructive recommendations, as detailed within the tabled resolution and in accordance with the specified timelines, would be a step in the right direction.

Praying for impunity

The Sri Lankan government organised a series of Buddhist religious poojas across the country on Wednesday, in order to ward off a prospective resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, Deputy Finance Minister, said , "We have organised simultaneous 'adhistana poojas' today at most leading Buddhist temples." "We will face the international challenge with determination."

Sri Lanka will 'resist resolution'

Sri Lanka has rejected a draft resolution tabled at the UN Human Rights Council. Tamara Kunanayakam, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, criticised the move by the US. Ms Kunanayakam said that Sri Lanka is working hard to convince the Human Rights Council to vote against the resolution. "A lot of work still remains to be done to convince Council Members of the correctness of our position. It is far too early to venture a prognosis," the Ambassador said in an interview. "What, in fact, are the US trying to tell us with their draft resolution? "They are not saying that our...

UK urges Sri Lanka to “move quickly”

Speaking at in Parliament on Monday, Britain has once again reiterated its calls for speedy implementation of the LLRC reports recommendations. British Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Alistair Burt addressed the House of Commons, stating , “The UK sees a political settlement, respect for human rights and accountability for alleged war crimes as being essential elements in post-conflict reconciliation in Sri Lanka. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which was appointed by the Sri Lankan Government to examine events relating to...

If Sri Lanka really could be good, then why has it been so bad?

As Sri Lanka struggles to fend off a critical resolution at the UN Human Rights Commission, international pressure on Sri Lanka is coalescing on three key demands. International actors are demanding that Sri Lanka implements reforms to usher in good governance, credibly investigates and prosecutes those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity and finally meets Tamil demands for meaningful self government. While the substance of these demands is entirely reasonable and plausible, the presumption that Sri Lanka might somehow meet these expectations is not. For if Sri Lanka really was capable of such enlightened behaviour then why has its post independence history been one of relentlessly escalating ethnic antagonism and brutality, culminating in the bloodbath of May 2009? What explains the ongoing militarised repression of the Tamil speaking regions? The very need for such overt international insistence on measures that are patently necessary reveals precisely why all such pressure is futile.

UN Rapporteur criticises Sri Lanka’s national media

Speaking at the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders sharply criticised Sri Lanka’s national media for campaigning against and endangering human rights defenders on the island. Addressing the session, Margaret Sekaggya stated, "Regarding other parts of the world, I have once again been alerted that should human rights defenders in Sri Lanka seek the protection of my mandate, they, their families and colleagues may be subject to reprisals. This ongoing situation, combined with smear campaigns against defenders in...

Ruling party calls for Tamil Bishop’s arrest

One of the parties of Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition has called for the prosecution of the Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph, and 30 other members of the clergy who have signed a letter critical of the government. The JHU, a Buddhist nationalist party, accused the Bishop of sympathising with Tamil separatism, for his letter that criticised the LLRC and called on the UN Human Rights Commission to pass a resolution to put pressure on Sri Lanka. The letter reveals a growing rift along ethnic lines within the Catholic clergy on the island. "At least now, we urge the Council to act decisively in...