19 September, 2020

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Lanka Vote’s Got Nothing To Do With Human Rights

By Firdous Syed 

There seems to be no moral justification behind the United States-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council. The massacre of ‘40,000 civilians’ and continued persecution of Tamils is a fit case for international censure; even an international intervention could be justified. That the US, motivated, or rather compelled, by a moving human rights crisis decided to sponsor a resolution against Sri Lanka is the ostensible explanation, which is difficult to fathom. The very day the US-sponsored resolution backed by 24 countries — ironically, including India — was passed, the US also voted against a resolution ‘ordering the first probe into how Israeli settlements may be infringing on the rights of the Palestinians’. The resolution against the illegal Israeli settlements was passed by 36 votes in favour and 10 abstentions; the US alone voted against the resolution. This underscored the US’s moral bankruptcy and also highlighted the majority international sentiment against illegal Israeli settlements.

The Palestinian problem seriously threatens the prospects of international peace, hence warranting urgent international attention. The US is publically committed for a two-state formula, Israel and Palestine side-by-side, as an only viable solution of the long pending dispute. It’s America that has, by its undue patronage of Israel’s expansionist pursuits, historically frustrated the resolution of the Palestinian problem. This seemingly intractable dispute is actually solvable, provided the US decides to follow an even-handed approach. Frustrated by Israel’s stubborn attitude, last year Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in desperation tried to seek recognition as UN member state. This request has been consigned to the UN’s labyrinthine bureaucratic machinery due to intense US pressure. However, UNESCO, where no country has the veto power, with a majority vote recently admitted ‘Palestine as its newest member’; The US, unable to stop Palestine’s entry into UNESCO, ‘responded by cutting off funding for the agency.’ President Obama, at the beginning of his present term, had promised to address the Israeli-Palestinian problem with new vigour and fresh mindset. Appallingly, Palestine has been relegated to the backburner; the Iranian nuclear dispute now hogs the headlines. Iran has not yet crossed the nuclear threshold that could necessitate military action. But did Iraq possessed a nuclear weapon that prompted America along with ‘coalition of willing’ to occupy Iraq on phony grounds? Without a clear UNSC mandate and despite the IAEA substantially unable to prove that Iraq possessed WMD’s, America invaded Iraq. Eventually America could not find even a single WMD that forced President Bush to accept that ‘the biggest regret of his presidency’ was ‘the intelligence failure in Iraq.’

Obviously, the US is no paragon of virtue that could arbitrate the norms of international morality. The concept of universal human rights is a smokescreen for realpolitik. The Sri Lankan army in a gruesome manner killed innocents, all the levers of West; Amnesty International, BBC Channel 4 and the Guardian faithfully built a favourable opinion before a vote in Human Rights Council.

But what about Gaddafi’s public lynching? Didn’t the mob justice —howsoever atrocious Gaddafi’s crimes — shame even the nondescript notions of civilised behaviour. Why studied silence on war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and host of other places, and why this clamour of human rights abuses at selective places? This is all geopolitics, and has nothing to do with human rights.

The objective condemnation of abuses or for that matter universal celebration of rights is still far, far away. The day the Dalai Lama on a visit to Srinagar, (unmindful of any embarrassment to his hosts) on merit is able to condemn the custodial death of 22-year-old Sajad Ahmed Dar, the latest victim of repression will be the day of real reckoning. Likewise, when a Kashmiri separatist leader (oblivious of Pakistan’s strategic relationship with China) can appreciate the ongoing oppression on Tibetan people and is able to muster enough moral courage to condemn the circumstances that forced 20-year-old Tsering Kyi to immolate herself in protest against the Chinese cultural assimilation will be the day when the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ could be fully realised. Forced by coalition compulsions, prime minister Monmohan Singh decided to side with the US. The mockery is that had there been no internal pressure, India would have comfortably maintained a criminal silence on the Tamil issue.

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