4 December, 2020

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International Pressure Continues To Be Important For Geneva Commitments

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

In March this year Sri Lanka will report back to the UN Human Rights Council on its implementation of Resolution No 30/1 which it co-sponsored in October 2015. This is not going to be an easy session for the country as there is a considerable amount of international dissatisfaction with the slow pace of progress. This report back will be important as it will determine whether or not international scrutiny of the country on human rights issues will continue or come to an end. However, during the past three and a half years the government has implemented several of the commitments it made in terms of the resolution it co-sponsored. These include establishing an office of missing persons, legalizing the international conventions against torture and enforced disappearances and returning military occupied land to the civilian population.

The most damaging propaganda against the government is that it committed the country to make unacceptable compromises to national sovereignty. By co-sponsoring the UNHRC resolution the government gave the international community the opportunity to formally scrutinize the government’s implementation of its commitments. Some of these commitments, such as to set up a judicial mechanism with the participation of international judges and investigators to ensure accountability in war crimes cases have been especially controversial. Subsequently both the president and prime minister have been compelled to make repeated public announcements that they will not permit such an international presence.

Any decision on the part of the UNHRC to accept the final report of the Sri Lankan government and close the chapter on the resolution will be a significant political achievement for the government. With crucial elections around the corner it will be able to show the electorate that its strategy of co-sponsoring the resolution has not been damaging to the country’s national interests or sovereignty. What it has implemented so far has not been overly controversial in the country. What it has not implemented are the controversial parts of the resolution. As a result, one of the opposition’s main weapons against the government would be denied to it.

Flexible Approach

So far the international community has shown flexibility towards the government. In March 2017 at the request of the Sri Lankan government the UNHRC adopted Resolution 34/1 that extended for a further two years the monitoring mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, with a request for a comprehensive report in March 2019. It is likely that the next session of the UNHRC will give rise to criticisms that Sri Lanka has still to make sufficient progress in implementing its commitments. An international lobby group, the International Campaign for Peace and Justice noted in March 2018 that out of 25 major commitments, the government had made little or no progress on 17 of them.

Considerable tracts of land still remain to be released. Prisoners held without trial and under the Prevention of Terrorism Act still continue to remain incarcerated. The PTA itself has not been replaced as promised to meet with international standards. Only one of the four reconciliation mechanisms, the office of missing persons, has been established while three others remain to be set up. The government has also to deliver on its promises to hold accountable those accused of human rights violations and crimes outside of the battlefields, such as journalists, and take them before the law.

Adding to this list of things to be done, is the limited progress made by the government in implementing constitutional reform. Although the government took much efforts to appoint a constitutional committee consisting of all parliamentarians and set up various sub-committees, it appears that the process of constitutional reform has got stuck. The government has yet to formally state its own stance on the controversial issues of devolution of power, the nature of the state and the place of Buddhism. Instead there is a draft constitutional document which appears to have no political party claiming ownership.

Renew Commitment 

With presidential elections to be held before the end of the year, and the possibility of provincial elections before it, it seems unlikely that the government would be able to speed up the constitutional reform process. The government has pledged to place a draft constitution before parliament by February 4, which is Independence Day, but there is a question whether the government will wish to take ownership of this product and seek to push it through parliament and a referendum. This seems unlikely with the government itself divided on the issue and with the president not cooperating with the government.

Indeed, the government’s future is by no means assured. At the local government elections held a year ago the government parties suffered a resounding setback. The clash between the president and the government has done nothing to improve the situation on the ground for the government. In this context any significant implementation of UN Resolution No 30/1 of October 2015 is unlikely by March deadline that the government is expected to report against. With the opposition denouncing the government’s co-sponsoring of the resolution right from the beginning and denouncing it as a betrayal of the country, its implementation will become even less likely in the event of a change of government.

The commitments made in October 2015 are difficult ones for any government, but they are necessary if there is to be justice in terms of dealing with the past and in creating a better future for all in the country. For the past three and half years, the strategy of the international community has been to encourage the government to implement the commitments it made in terms of UNHRC resolution 30/1. The extension of the resolution by a further time period will enable the international community to keep the issue of the resolution on the table while giving whatever government is in power the time and space in which to implement those commitments.

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Latest comments

  • 8
    1

    Why is this government defending and protecting the previous government for the war crimes, crimes against humanity, for the genocide committed. Who is hiding what?

    The only way Sri Lanka can survive in the international community with respect and dignity, to develop with support, and not become a failed pariah state, is to be open, honest and transparent, and agree to refer itself to the ICC / UNGA or to a special tribunal, to clear the mess and to move forward. Justice, accountability and human rights abuse should not be traded for Karma of the nation and it’s innocent people. Nothing to be ashame off, if you are not guilty.

    • 5
      1

      They will report back to Geneva that they have started the accountability process, by framing charges in courts against 11 military personnel for war crimes and will ask for further time to conclude the process. This fake trial will not punish any criminal.

      • 1
        0

        Dr. JP: why not ask Trumpland, which took Lanka to UNHRC, to try its US citizen Gota Jarapassa for War crimes?
        This would be a far quicker and easier solution and would bring much relief to Tamil and Muslim minorities communities as it is highly symbolic to hold accountable the top war criminal. So, Dr. Jehan ask your US embassy friends who fund your National Peace Council overseas trips and “research” on how to weaponize religion in Lanka to take in their LA citizen, Gota, at least for questioning as CIA has a big file on him?!!

        Also, only solution for long suffering Lankans, who are fed up of the UNP-SLFP-PP Bondscam Ranil-Sira-Mahinda Kleptocray is: at the next Presidential elections later this year for the JVP’s Anura Kumara Dissanayake to contest and win!

  • 5
    1

    It’s time for UN not to give any more extra time for the GoSL as they have no interest at all in bringing ethnic harmony and reconciliation or an acceptable Inquiry in to WAR CRIMES between 2005 and 2009.
    The victims do want an INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATION and justice served to the victims.
    A New Constitution is also a must for the country to move on.

  • 1
    3

    He He He
    We don’t care.
    We are a province of China.
    Also poverty India will help us, else UN will expose killings in Kashmir.
    Cheers

  • 2
    1

    One thing common in our GoSLs is their insensitivity to be on the radar of UNHRC.
    Much to the chagrin of the International Community, MS recently showed his warmth to Duterte.
    Thank you Jehan for pointing out what is in store for us.

  • 1
    2

    I think at least two countries quit UNHCR. Sri lanka should quit too. We openly know International community is double standard and for them LTTE did not die. Everybody understands Because of China, Sri lanka is an important country in the Indian OCean.Srilanka Should quit Non Aligned movement if needed Common welth too.

    • 0
      0

      And very soon Chinese DNA will be incorporated in to Sinhalese genes similar to King Vijaya to the indigenous tribes of Sri Lanka!

  • 1
    3

    It was Stupid for Mangala to renew the Commitments with USA; UNHCR, insteas there are other countries which directly quit UNHCR. He should hazve handled in that way insted of cting like a Soft spoken woman. Sri lanka did not invade another country and no country did not have to suffer this way beczuse it did not azpprove a Miolitary camp for the International community.

  • 2
    0

    Jehan,
    You mentioned all areas where the govt is trying to improve democracy. But you conveniently omitted that the President and PM have both said that they will not prosecute their Heroes. There problem is not International participation. That is an excuse.
    In your next article leave all the stuff you said in this article. Focus on the war crimes and crimes against humanity where there are ample evidence for prosecution to start. At least the gosl can start the case where a child Balachandran was killed in point blank range after giving him biscuits to eat. The army did not prosecute whoever pulled the trigger. Is it because that person will reveal who gave the orders. That case will reverberate and will have a domino effect. That is what the gosl is afraid. Whoever prosecute the criminals will be thrown out of power.

    Why are you sweeping the war crimes issue under your computer. Are your employers restricting your freedom to write? You know the Tamil diaspora and human rights organization outside Sri Lanka will call for Universal Jurisdiction. Guess who was Defence Minister was during the final Crimes when the President and significant others were out of the country. Wake up Jehan.

  • 0
    2

    While Dr Jehan Perera is demanding the international to increase pressure on Sri Lanka I demand the Sinhalese to increase pressure on the government to rearrest the 12,000+ terrorists released by Rajapaksa . Rajapaksa had no right to do so.

    Soma

  • 1
    0

    Dear Author and all participants,
    Not only your participation, The participation of the top Sri Lankan Leaders towards the Country’s destiny is clear to the rest of the world. It is well aware where your Country is heading to. Even though the Top executives are still travelling around the world, soon the time is coming up for them to get caught to the world justice system. Because now it is becoming clearer than ever before who the real criminals are and why the Country is yet allowed to sink when there is prompt help available to make the Country crime free and dignified..

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