By Thambu Kanagasabai –
Recently. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a three man Commission to study and find out if any human rights violations have been revealed in the Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission [LLRC] Paranagama and Udalagama Commissions by ignoring and rejecting the several Reports of the UN Special Rapporteurs including United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon’s Report which detailed comprehensive human rights violations. However, Sri Lanka has amply demonstrated its defiance to not to implement the Recommendations contained in the 30/1, 34/1 and 40/1 UNHRC Resolutions. In response Sri Lanka adopted the usual and convenient tactics of requesting extensions and obtaining them easily with the support of UNHRC member countries but Sri Lanka has thereby successfully achieved its goals by keeping the Resolutions in vacuum and at bay for the last five years. Now it has dealt the final blow by informing its withdrawals and rejections of those Recommendations and Resolutions describing them as external interference on Sri Lanka’ s sovereignty and integrity though they were also the co-sponsors of those Resolutions.
UNHRC High Commissioner for Human Rights Michalle Bachelet’s leaked report which could be submitted in the forthcoming UNHRC 46th Session in March 2021 is forthright, frank and has exposed the tantrums and gimmicks of Sri Lanka enabling it to discard, ignore and finally reject those Resolutions with contempt while challenging the credibility, status and strength of the prestigious UN body UNHRC among the World of Nations.
UNHRC High Commissioner for Human Right’s proposed draft Resolution has brought Sri Lanka down to its knees and has sent shivers and panic. As a result, it is now busy scrambling and searching for futile damage control exercises which could be laced with empty pledges and promises as before including face saving measures like the recent three man Presidential Commission hurriedly assembled by a panicky President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
This eye washing Commission is mandated “To find out whether Presidential Commissions of inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate human rights violations have revealed any human rights violations of international law and other such serious offences”.
It is learnt that LLRC appointed in 2011, and Udalgama and Paranagama Commissions appointed in 2014 to look into enforced disappearances would fall within the “Search and reveal for any human rights violations”. It is to be noted that said Commissioner’s Reports will be retrieved from the archives for this purpose.
It is a palpable truth that human rights violations are entrenched in the politics of Sri Lanka which was inaugurated in 1948 by late Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake and continues unabated with some respites at occasional periods. So far more than 15 State Commissions have been appointed since 1977 starting with the Sansoni Commission with a majority of them dealing with human rights violations committed against the Tamils including Tamils of Indian Origin.
The mandate itself is hollow and farcical which targets to confirm the positions that so far no human rights violations have occurred in Sri Lanka. As such the Commission is attempting to scan some of the state appointed commissioners’ Reports for search and possibly reveal if any human rights violations have been reported by the Commissioners.
In this respect. the several graphic pictures of extra judicial killings by security forces photographed by Sri Lankan soldiers and given for publications by Channel 4 TV in United Kingdom provide on the spot and direct evidence including rape and murders of Isaipriya and others by the soldiers who were seen gleefully enjoying the cruel and inhuman treatment of captured Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE] cadres who were stripped and naked.
The Commission appointed by the President is nothing but a mockery of justice and travesty of accountability aiming to hoodwink the United Nations, UNHRC at its worst level. The shallowness and hollowness of this Commission can be seen when one considers the timing and motivation.
It is crystal clear that if not for the UNHRC High Commissioner’s harsher and punitive measures recommended in the draft Resolution, the President would not have even dreamt of appointing the latest or any Commission to deal with human rights violations as Rajapakaas’ position right from the end of the war in 2009 has been outright denial of any commission of war crimes etc. even the killing of a single civilian during the genocidal war from 2006 – 2009. Furthermore the members of the appointed Commission are of questionable reputation and standing. One member is the retired Inspector General of Police Chandra Fernando who carries the dubious reputation and name as an officer who extolled and justified torture to detainees as far for him it was the only method available to extract involuntary confessions from the detainees.
In addition, the ulterior motive behind the appointment of the Commission is to shield the several alleged war crimes accused and protect them from prosecution for the alleged war crimes etc. In short, the Commission is empowered and bound to recommend exculpatory measures. In the end. all suspects and those involved in the alleged commissions of war crimes etc. would be finally sheltered under Sri Lanka’s historical entrenched culture of impunity.
In this respect, International Commission of Jurists and Human Rights Watch’s comments on the Commission are as follows:
“It is a travesty of justice and attention to deflect robust action. [ICJ – 26th January 2021] while Human Rights Watch commented that “It is a dangerous attempt to avert urgently needed international action”.
In short, they have aptly described the hollow credibility of this Commission.
Therefore, there is no iota of doubt that this Commission will perform its functions as guided and controlled and the expectations would be the solidification and continuance of entrenched culture of impunity for alleged war criminals while throwing the basic pillars of democracy, accountability, justice and rule of law to no man’s land and deserting the victims of war to languish and abandoning them to live in limbo.
It is therefore of paramount and crucial importance for the United Nations, UNHRC and the International Community to rise to this serious occasion and exercise their powers and authority and rein in Sri Lanka to behave as a respected UN member while halting the hoodwinking and contemptuous defiant postures and daringly challenging the role, strength and credibility of respected world bodies – United Na\ions and UN Human Rights Council.
The irony of this commission is that it includes a member who is alleged to have committed human rights violations while he was entrusted to investigate detainees and was alleged to have inflicted torture and also facing allegations of extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances. In this respect this member has donned the role of an accused functioning as judge and jury.
It is learnt that a consensus Resolution is being prepared by some UNHRC Members which is actively supported by Sri Lanka. A would be diluted consensus Resolution if adopted would favour Sri Lanka which will not hesitate to exploit its delay and discard the UNHRC Recommendations while crowning human rights violations in Sri Lanka firmly rooted as a permanent political weapon against minorities and others opposing the Government.
*Thambu Kanagasabai – LLM [London] Former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo Sri Lanka.