18 April, 2021

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Take Human Rights Seriously, Not So Much The Office Or The High Commissioner

By Laksiri Fernando –

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

The 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council started on 22 February morning with obvious hiccups. The Office, to mean the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, finally decided to hold all sessions virtually online, only the President of the Council and assistants at the high table sitting at the UN Assembly Hall in Geneva. The President, Ms. Nazhat Shammen Khan, Ambassador from Fiji in Geneva, wearing a saree, was graceful in the chair with empty seats surrounding.

In the opening session, the UN General Assembly President, UN General Secretary, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Head of Foreign Affairs, Switzerland (as the host country), addressed remotely the session. In fact, there was no need for Switzerland to have a special place, as the UN is independent from any host country. Switzerland is fairly ok, however, if this tradition is followed, the UN General Assembly may have to give a special place to the US in New York.    

Initial Addresses 

UN General Secretary, Antonio Guterres’ address could have been quite exemplary if he gave a proper balance to the developed and developing countries. He talked about racism and fight against racism but did not mention where racism is overwhelmingly rampant (US and Europe) and what to do about it. Outlining the human rights implications of Covid-19 pandemic, he made quite a good analysis. It was nice for him to say, ‘human rights are our blood line (equality), our lifeline (for peace) and our frontline (to fight against violations).’ However, in the fight against violations, he apparently forgot about the ‘blood line’ or the ‘lifeline’ quite necessary not to aggravate situations through partiality and bias. He never talked about the importance of human rights education or promoting human rights awareness in all countries. 

His final assault was on Myanmar. Although he did not call ‘genocide,’ he denounced the treatment of Rohingyas as ethnic cleansing without mentioning any terrorist group/s within. His call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders undoubtedly should be a common call of all. However, he did not leave any opening for a dialogue with the military leaders or bring back a dialogue between Aung San and Min Aung, the military leader. With a proper mediation, it is not impossible. Calling for a complete overhaul as the young demonstrators idealistically claim might not be realistic.  

High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s address was brief and uncontroversial this time without mentioning any country or region. It is clear by now perhaps she is not the real author of the Report against Sri Lanka, but someone probably hired by the so-called co-group led by Britain. Her major points were related to the coronavirus pandemic trying to highlight some of the socio-economic disparities and imbalances of policy making that have emerged as a result. The neglect of women, minorities, and the marginalized sections of society were emphasized. But the poor was not mentioned. As a former medical doctor, she also opted to highlight some of the medical issues underpinning the crisis. Her only slip was to say Agenda 2020 (instead of 2030) when referring the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Then came the statements from different countries in the first meeting in the following order: Uzbekistan, Colombia, Lithuania, Afghanistan, Poland, Venezuela, Finland, Fiji, Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Equatorial Guinea, Vietnam, Belgium, and Morocco. The obvious purposes of these statements were different. Some countries were apparently canvassing for getting into the Human Rights Council at the next turn perhaps for the purpose of prestige. Some others were playing regional politics against their perceived enemies. This was very clear when Lithuania and Poland started attacking Russia. 

But there were very sincere human rights presentations as well. One was the statement by the President of Afghanistan, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. He outlined the devastating effects that Afghanistan had to undergo during the last 40 years, because of foreign interferences. The initial support to Taliban by big powers was hinted. His kind appeal was to the UN was to go ‘beyond discourse to practice’ giving equal chance to the poor and the developing countries to involve without discrimination. 

Controversial Presentations 

China’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Wang Yi, made his presentation almost at the end of the first day. This is apparently the first time that China had directly addressed the Human Rights Council. Beginning with outlining the devastating repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic he stressed that the world should face the challenges through ‘solidarity and cooperation.’ He broadened the concept to human rights solidarity and cooperation. His expressed views were quite different to the others, particularly to the Western ones. 

He frankly said that what he expresses are the views of China on human rights without claiming those are absolute truths or forcing others to believe or implement them. There were four main concepts that he put forward before the member countries. First, he said, “We should embrace a human rights philosophy that centers on the people. The people’s interests are where the human rights cause starts and ends.” Second, he said, “we should uphold both universality and particularity of human rights. Peace, development, equity, justice, democracy, and freedom are common values shared by all humanity and recognized by all countries.” “On the other hand,” he said, “countries must promote and protect human rights in light of their national realities and the needs of their people.” 

“Third,” he said, “we should systemically advance all aspects of human rights. Human rights are an all-encompassing concept. They include civil and political rights as well as economic, social, and cultural rights.” He then emphasized, “Among them, the rights to subsistence and development are the basic human rights of paramount importance.” Fourth, “we should continue to promote international dialogue and cooperation on human rights. Global human rights governance should be advanced through consultation among all countries.” 

It was on the same first day before China, that the United Kingdom launched its barrage against several countries not sparing Sri Lanka. The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, delivered the statement from top to bottom attacking alleged violating countries on human rights. But there was no mentioning of Israel for the repression of Palestinians or the systemic racism rampaging in the United States, including the 6 January attacks on the Capitol by extremist/terrorist groups. 

His first sermon was on Myanmar without acknowledging the British atrocities or mismanagement of this poor and diverse country during the colonial period. He was quite jubilant over implementing sanctions and other restrictions over the country. Many sanctions, in my opinion, are extortions. Undoubtedly, Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders should be released, and democracy restored. This is a task of the whole council and when one or two countries try to grab the credit, there can be obvious reservations of others. 

His further scathing attacks were against Belarus, Russia, and China. Some appeared factually correct but not necessarily the approach or the motives genuine. The following is the way he came around Sri Lanka. He said,          

Finally, we will continue to lead action in this Council: on Syria, as we do at each session; on South Sudan; and on Sri Lanka, where we will present a new resolution to maintain the focus on reconciliation and on accountability.” 

‘Action’ to him basically means repeatedly passing resolutions, of course imposing economic and other sanctions. He said, “as we do at each session”; like bullying poor or weak countries at each session. Can there be a resolution against Russia or China? I doubt it. 

What would be the purpose of presenting a resolution against Sri Lanka? As he said, “to maintain the focus on reconciliation and on accountability.” This will satisfy neither the militant Tamils nor the Sinhalese. But it might satisfy the crafty opposition (proxy of the defeated last government). This is not going to be based on any of the actual measures that Sri Lanka has taken or not taken on reconciliation or accountability. But based on the ‘Authoritarian and Hypocritical Report’ that some anti-Sri Lankans have drafted within the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This what I have discussed in my last article. 

In this context, successful or not, the statement made by the Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs, Dinesh Gunawardena, in rejecting any resolution based on the foxy Report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in my concerned opinion, is absolutely correct. 

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Latest comments

  • 9
    11

    World’s Worst Human Rights Violators are the Americans and I am an American citizen. Tamils must of heard of Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Somali, Sudan and Yemen. Tamils are less likely to have heard of American atrocities in Argentina, Peru, El Salvador, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, and several other Latin American countries.

    This is an domestic issue and was settled to the satisfaction of 75% of this citizens. An democratically elected government put down an brutal terrorist group that used child soldiers, women, suicide bombings, and killed thousands of Tamils, Sinhalese, Indians and Muslims, crippling the nations economy for over 30 years, Because of Tamil terrors , thousands of Sri Lankas fled the island for greener pastures. Depriving the nation of thousands university graduates and skilled workers. Tamils should have done some Gandhi type protest to get their demands ,instead of killing people and ruing a nation. Karma is a bitch !

    • 7
      0

      Previous govt agreed to hold investigations within the country relying on Local Judges. However, now with local judges being become caricatures of the ruling govt, people s hopes have been faded away.
      :
      In today s context, not only war crimes, but entire justice systems are manipulated for the surivivals of the high crime doers. If anyone would closely study, those who are in leadership in the country today, should long have been jailed for their mlechcha crimes deliberately committed by Rajaakshes and their goons.

      Repeating their so called war victories, Rajapakshes have built up human shields based on untruths so that their politically greedy agendas could well be established. As of today, all the crime investigations are taken away from further investigations, by abusing the judiciary dircretly. Unethical presidential commissions have been set up to defend their men in power, while any oponnents being highly attacked. The great parliamentarian who fearlessly worked against injustice in the society is jailed today while real murderers are even invited to parliamentary sessions while them furher being in jails. This govt should be punished sooner than later if the nation should be blessed with a better govt.

      http://webtv.un.org/watch/id-high-commissioner-report-on-sri-lanka-9th-meeting-46th-regular-session-human-rights-council-/6234936114001/?term=#player

      .

      • 4
        0

        The slavish attitudes of Laksiri and that other professor, Sudarshan Senevirathna, the ambassador to Bangladesh, should be compared with the brave Myanmar UN envoy, who has demanded that the coup be reversed. When will educated Sri Lankans develop a similar backbone?

      • 0
        1

        LM
        “Rajapakshes have built up human shields based on untruths”
        Can you please elaborate on this kind of human shield (which seems unlike any that I have come across) to understand how it works.

  • 18
    3

    “High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s address was brief and uncontroversial this time without mentioning any country or region. It is clear by now perhaps she is not the real author of the Report against Sri Lanka, but someone probably hired by the so-called co-group led by Britain. “”

    I think Dr. Laksiri must have been now in the pay list of Rajapakse’s. I read a news item today in Lankasiri that Easter Bomb Sahran was in the pay list of Rajapakse’s.

    • 7
      0

      “Take Human Rights Seriously, Not So Much The Office Or The High Commissioner”
      Perhaps it is Prof. Laksiri who shouldn’t be taken too seriously?

    • 5
      0

      A
      LF is clutching at straws.
      If a document carries the name of a person or his/her office, that person takes responsibility for the content.
      If Bachelet has retracted anything that she said or contradicted herself in some way, there is an issue.
      As OC suggests “Perhaps it is Prof. Laksiri who shouldn’t be taken too seriously”

  • 10
    0

    Boralugoda Meeya can squeak for all its worth but that is not going to make any impression on the country’s foreign critics.

  • 14
    2

    True colors of Sinhalese racist Laksiri Fernando is on regular display now!
    Shame on you.

  • 12
    1

    What does it matter who the author of the report is? What is relevant is whether its contents are true and whether they present an accurate picture of history and the prevailing situation. If you disagree with the report you must issue a point-by-point rebuttal of everything stated in it. That of course, is something beyond your mental capacity. Focusing on the postman who delivered the letter is really irrelevant.

  • 4
    0

    Thank you, Laksiri,
    .
    That summary is useful; few will have the patience to sit through all that, although I did. It’s all here in videos. I actually thought that the Fijian “President” of the Council was a Sri Lankan!
    .
    Michelle Bachelet and Dinesh Gunewardena are here:
    .

    http://webtv.un.org/watch/id-high-commissioner-report-on-sri-lanka-9th-meeting-46th-regular-session-human-rights-council-/6234936114001/?term=#player
    .
    This was largely tedious, but there were points of interest. By and large one begins to understand how bureaucratic some of it is.
    .
    http://webtv.un.org/watch/id-high-commissioner-report-on-sri-lanka-contd-10th-meeting-46th-regular-session-human-rights-council/6235189268001/
    .
    At the very end, the Jordanian Deputy High Commissioner was good.
    .
    I had to do another search for the Afghan President:
    .
    http://webtv.un.org/%D8%9B/watch/afghanistan-high-level-segment-1st-meeting-46th-regular-session-human-rights-council-/6234289093001/?term=
    .
    I already knew that he is a remarkable man – given what we think of Afghanistan!
    .
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashraf_Ghani
    .
    That’s worth reading! Why can’t we, Sri Lankans, find a man like that?
    .
    From our point of view, I saw how much damage the COVID cremations had done. Thankfully, the gazette is now out:
    .
    https://www.hirunews.lk/english/263691/gazette-issued-allowing-cremation-or-burial-of-the-corpse
    .

  • 5
    1

    At last, Rajapaksa’s are surrendered to China again on the burial of Muslim Covid-19 Dead bodies after China’s envoy Imran Khan promised to get more Muslim votes in UNHRC.

    • 1
      4

      A
      China’s envoy Imran Khan?
      Imran Khan is nobody’s envoy. China (like Japan) treats leaders of other countries with greater respect than do the US, and India.
      If it was in China’s interest to push for Muslim burials, they would have been very effective without a messenger.
      If you hate China, please yourself. But refrain from insulting leaders of some standing.

      • 3
        0

        Yes he is China’s envoy because China can’t directly have an influence on Muslim Countries. In his speeches Kahn didn’t mention Muslim burials but talk about praising China.

        • 0
          4

          A
          China has good relations with all Muslim countries including the feuding Iran and Saudi Arabia. (To see this, one has to remove one’s blinkers.) Thus, China needs no intermediary to get through to any Muslim state.
          Is for some reason Sri Lanka the Muslim country that you have in mind, as the issue concerns Sri Lanka?
          *
          Can you also kindly share with us the exact words of praise of your nemesis by Imran that bother you.
          Do you seriously expect Imran Khan to make public declarations the way certain diplomatic big mouths here do about Muslim burials? He spoke to the right people in the right manner and got the matter sorted out besides enhancing relations between he two countries. You are perhaps a little too used to our politicians and aggressive diplomats.
          *
          Your story will help to promote China among Sri Lankan Muslims, who, unlike prominent Tamils, are not hostile to China, but certainly not great fans.

          • 1
            0

            “China has good relations with all Muslim countries including the feuding Iran and Saudi Arabia”
            Now that Biden has released the Kashoggi report, will a miffed Saudi regime seek a new bed partner in China?

  • 6
    0

    Another ‘academic’ to keep company with GL Peris. Its pathetic when so called educated professionals are prostituting their integrity.

    What happened in the colonial times is history. Those responsible are no longer living to be held accountable but history will judge them in time. We have to learn from the past. What others did, does not make it right to condone atrocities committed in the name of liberation. In our conscience, we should accept the truth & if atrocities were committed by the SL armed forces, it should be denounced.

    The focus has been on civilian casualties & the fate of surrendering of LTTE cadre. It is the poor Tamils in Jaffna, caught between the LTTE & the military, & who have no voice, that needed justice. However, the atrocities have continued, considering the alleged kidnapping & murder of schoolboys by Navy thugs, the murder of critics like Lasantha, & now arbitrary incarceration of honest law enforcement officers like Shani & human rights campaigners like lawyer Hijaz. If the impunity is not addressed, where will it stop? The writing is already on the proverbial wall & the countdown to Myanmar has probably already begun.

    • 1
      2

      R-UK
      Do not intellectuals sell themselves where you live?

      • 3
        0

        SJ
        A higher education nurtures the ability to think & broadens the mind but it’s the genes that shine through in the end. Trump is supposed to have paid others to sit for his exams & most likely ‘bought’ all his ‘achievements’ but his self serving & exploitative traits are clear & that goes for all his ‘educated’ supporters. The fact is, they have become a joke & have lost their credibility by large.
        SL politicians are mostly uneducated, thick skinned & shameless. They have nothing to lose but ass kissing ‘intellectuals’ are pathetic, whether in SL or not.

      • 0
        2

        “Of all the nations of Western Europe lobbying is the most developed in Britain”
        (Opening statement in “Corridors of Power: Lobbying in the UK” by David Miller & William Dinan)
        British scientists, like British politicians, are no saints.

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