5 March, 2021

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The Choice Of Consensus Or Confrontation

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The report on Sri Lanka of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has been much stronger than anticipated. It has shattered the belief that Sri Lanka was too important a country in geopolitical terms for the international community to use to prove a point. In her report, the High Commissioner has stated that Sri Lanka’s disregard of the commitments that it had made should not become an excuse for other countries to follow suit. The recommendations made in the High Commissioner’s report are dangerous. They include a call for targeted economic and travel sanctions on those suspected of human rights violations. The report has recommended the launch of criminal proceedings at the International Criminal Court and an international mechanism to gather evidence. In addition there is an invitation to countries to take independent action against those deemed to be human rights violators on the basis of universal jurisdiction.

This latter recommendation in particular has the possible consequence of opening the floodgates to a whole host of law suits filed by aggrieved individuals and human rights organisations. The High Commissioner’s report is therefore a document that cannot be ignored but needs to be responded to with due attention to detail. If the issues raised in it are not dealt with it can place members of the government and security forces vulnerable to having legal cases and summons placed before them while they are in transit in foreign countries. The legal field in relation to universal jurisdiction is particularly well developed in Western countries.

The doctrine of universal jurisdiction allows national courts to try cases of crimes against humanity and war crimes, even if these crimes are not committed in the national territory and even if they are committed by government leaders of other states. The concept is not new, though states have shown an increasing willingness to enlarge the zone of their jurisdiction and to prosecute or extradite those in high places.

Universal Jurisdiction 

One of the main cases of the practice of universal jurisdiction comes from Chile. The present High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet herself comes from Chile where she became president for two terms. Her father Alberto Arturo Miguel Bachelet Martínez was a Brigadier General of the Chilean Air Force. He opposed the 1973 coup of General Augusto Pinochet, and was imprisoned and subject to torture for several months until his death in 1974 while in prison. After ending his 8 year term as president, former President Pinochet got himself appointed as Senator for life in Chile with immunity for any crimes he may have committed. The arrest of Augusto Pinochet in London after being indicted by a Spanish magistrate in 1998 signaled changing international norms in the late 1990s.

As a result of the precedents of the Pinochet case, other leaders who were alleged to have committed well-documented crimes have been pursued, including former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel. Although an influential and respected person in the US, Henry Kissinger has had to restrict his international travel, because he was wanted in so many jurisdictions either for trial or as a prosecution witness. He served both as Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford during the Vietnam War in which large numbers of war crimes took place.

Strong Response 

The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report gives its analysis and recommendations under the topics of “Emerging threats to reconciliation, accountability and human rights; Militarization of civilian government functions; Reversal of Constitutional safeguards; Political obstruction of accountability for crimes and human rights violations; Majoritarian and exclusionary rhetoric; Surveillance and intimidation of civil society and shrinking democratic space; New and exacerbated human rights concerns; Assessment of the implementation of resolution 30/1; Transitional justice and confidence-building measures; Impunity in emblematic cases; Conclusions; Recommendations.” The first indicators of the government’s response to this UN report is that it will respond strongly and show up flaws, biases and weaknesses in the report.

It is likely that the government’s response will be strong as this would be the expectation of the majority of people who voted it to power to put a stop to what they see as excessive international intervention in the internal affairs of the country. However, a strong response to the High Commissioner’s report does not preclude the government from reaching an accommodation with the UN Human Rights Council (which is a separate body and consists of 47 countries which have been elected to sit on it) on the issue of a follow up to its resolutions 30/1 of 2015 and 40/1 of 2017. Reaching accommodation with this body would be a better strategy to follow than one of full scale confrontation as occurred during the period 2011-14 which proved to be costly to the country.

It probably will be easier to reach a compromise agreement with the Human Rights Council which consists of the governments of 47 countries. Already some ambassadors of foreign powers who are expected to be playing a lead role in the deliberations that will take place in Geneva have offered conciliatory messages. US ambassador Alaina Teplitz has said in an interview that “The support for human rights is absolutely not an effort to bully Sri Lanka or to diminish its sovereignty.” German ambassador Holger Seubert has tweeted that an “Important UNHRC session coming up in Geneva soon. Hoping that a consensual resolution will be possible.”

Not only is human rights only one of the many considerations that governments have, they also consider geopolitics including what is happening in other countries. The latest news is that Myanmar has suffered military coup and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kii and many of the democratically elected government are under arrest. This is a matter that will necessarily occupy the attention of the Human Rights Council and the secretariat including the High Commissioner. Also, unlike in 2012 and 2013 when it lost in voting at the Human Rights Council in 2021 the balance of global power has shifted and its allies China and Russia much more important on the global stage. However, a confrontational strategy would still pit Sri Lanka against powerful countries, and those who have courts that practice universal jurisdiction, and this is best avoided.

Consensual Resolution 

The possibility of a consensual resolution has been a subject of discussion within the government. Foreign Secretary, Prof Jayanath Colombage, a former Admiral of the Sri Lanka Navy who was part of a team that designed the cooperative naval strategy with foreign powers that overcame the LTTE at sea, including the US and India, has been quoted as saying that a consensual resolution was under consideration. It is ironic that those who have been in the military may apprieciate the value of cooperation over confrontation due to their past experience. This would provide the government with an opportunity to set out its roadmap for reconciliation and obtain international support for it without going to a divisive vote.

The High Commissioner’s report has noted that the government’s path to reconciliation will be through the two prongs of reparations and development. The governments of the 47 countries represented in the UN Human Rights Council might be more amendable to this government strategy for reconciliation if they see it is in the process of being implemented. Such a strategy cannot remain only a promise but needs to be seen implemented on the ground right away. While development is a long term process whose visible impact may not be seen immediately, there are several act of reparation that can be done with immediate visibility impacts.

These include increasing the quantum of reparations given to families of the missing from the present sum of Rs 6000 per month, amnesty for LTTE suspects held for over a decade without indictment or trial and resettlement of the war displaced with housing and livelihoods being provided to them. In her recent media interview, US ambassador Alaina Teplitz has also given some suggestions regarding what the international community is looking at. She said that “it would be good to see more progress in terms of finalizing the last of land returns, in terms of looking at the independent institutions that had been established previously to address the missing, to address the cause of reparation and finally an institution that was not established for looking at the need for some truth telling so that people can kind of examine the past and move ahead.” Another important symbolic reconciliatory action that can be taken at this time would be to sing the national anthem in Tamil also at the Independence Day celebrations on February 4 particularly in the Tamil majority areas.

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Latest comments

  • 7
    10

    Confrontation is the best option because when confronted, UNHRC cannot take any action and SL need not take any action. Easy. If SL reaches a consensus, that has to be implemented which is problematic. The only way UNHRC can force anything on SL is by getting it passed at the Security Council which will never happen thanks to Russia and China opposing anything from the West.

    The annual February/March carnival doesn’t disappoint. But it ends and nothing happens for a year. Don’t make a mountain of a molehill.

    • 13
      2

      Gatam,
      It is not Russia and China that take 80% of our exports. It isn’t the Security Council that is rejecting LC’s issued by local banks.
      We are dependent for our survival on the EU and the US. Go read the export data.

    • 0
      3

      Fathima Fuckoshima
      Royals are using Dr. Jeysankar to defeat any resolution at UNHRC. So there is good chance it to go back to UNSG. It looks like he is the only one can do something about the promise Old King gave to Ex UNSG Ban-Ki-Moon.

  • 8
    0

    WOW, what a wonderful politics – this time around, not even far poor afro nations would back GR-MR authoritarian rule. We hear today about millitary coup in Myanmar/, srilanka will be the next. Commissions appointed to get released all men that were proved to be high criminals during previous govt, thinking that majority of the country would not even notice it. Judges and lawyers prove what Ranjan Ramanayaka fearlessly fought for… ” over 95% of judges and lawyers are highly corrupted in this today s srilanka”. His imprisonment and several other unethical actions taken by melchcha Rajapakshes will definitely become a crucial topic in upcoming UNHRC session.
    .
    They drive the country to all deadends. Not sure, even yet today, 6.9 millions would stay singing the same song pleasing their Chaliechaplins. Even little ones are unhappy today being unable to see some light for a better future. Mlechcha media men would treat it with permament indifference.

    International isolation is in making. Interal FAKE pride (so called 2500 year old heritage) about ” we the srilankens” is building. Blant lies sowed in order to grab power by hook or crook work ” what goes around comes around”: They think very same people would get caught by their next lies. East terminal port issue was their lifeline to huge sums of debt payment.

    to be contd.

    • 1
      3

      Hi Lm,
      I have not been able to figure out the torrent of comments that come cascading down is energized by your conviction or addiction.

      • 3
        0

        Hi HP,
        Sorry to hear that. Anyways, it is not being addicted for sure. Addictions of pathological nature you will see in Eagle Eye/SOMA or few more commenters. Please take good care of you, be vigilent with COVID infections becoming worst in the days to come. It will take months and years until they provide the entire nation with vaccines.

  • 9
    0

    The usual glossing over of the Sinhalese side (i.e, Sri Lankan state) by Jehan Perera is obvious in this article.

    The most important redress that has to be effected is the reversal of Sinhalese colonization of Tamil speaking people’s traditional habitat since independence.

    If the Sri Lankan state continues with the state-aided colonization of the North-East in time Tamil speaking people will have little or no representation even in the parliament.

    That is the only way Tamil speaking people can be secure and free from future pogroms of Sinhalese mobs aided and abetted by the state.

    • 2
      0

      Thiru,

      Jehan PhD wants a local TRO to escape International Inquiry. What you you think if one sends Jehan PhD to one stage to tell truth so Tamils can feel soothed from war crimes. That will be the Mahawamsa of 2021. He constantly calculate and device techniques to dupe! He is man advised New King to take Lord Nesaby’s services to defeat Resolution 30/1. He went to UNHRC with Tilak to withdraw from UNHRC, instead of agreeing to Resolution 40/1.
      He is saying that Jayanath Colombage is ready to work with UNHRC. But Jehan PhD didn’t read CT which has full news piece on Colombage ‘s action on the media for leaking a report that he wanted to leaks. Fraud; nothing but lies!

    • 4
      0

      “Another important symbolic reconciliatory action that can be taken at this time would be to sing the national anthem in Tamil also at the Independence Day celebrations on February 4 particularly in the Tamil majority areas.”
      I don’t believe the Nandasena regime is as logical as Jehan expects. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have infuriated India with its flip-flops on the East Terminal. This is not a government that takes rational decisions. It is a cabal of dim-witted ex- military and half-literate SB “intellectuals” . It simply totters from crisis to crisis. I wonder what India will do at the UNHRC? I predict that the Port’s trans-shipment business will dry up for inexplicable reasons, accompanied by inscrutable statements from Delhi. There is nobody in the government who has an English vocabulary to make sense of diplomat-speak, only thugs with experience of yelling loudest. So we are in for trouble.

      • 3
        1

        Old,
        The Tamil media is full of Rapist Army. police and court actions on MPs, journalists and promoters like Hunger strikers. Sanakiyan MP and Kalaiyarsan MP are on detention. Nilanthan like top notch are stopped from reporting. Even just few minutes ago a news showed up a Mullaitivu NGO is stopped participating in today’s actions, by court. Either Jehan PhD travel frequently to North East without Knowing Tamil or he purposefully ignore these Tamil Media.

  • 8
    2

    Today Sri Lanka is not a country. It is a playground for Mahinda Family lead group and other group. Mahinda Family is backed by China, Russia and Pakistan. Other group is backed by USA,EU,UK and India. UNHRC resolution is based on the Crimes Committed by The Mahinda group. Confrontation is the only way because most of the crimes are committed under the direction and guidance of Mahinda Family directly. So in any legal system they cannot escape if legal system is applied. So they will continue with confrontation and they might getaway with UNHRC resolution using bribe.
    However, they cannot escape from individual countries taking actions against Sri Lankan politicians who have committed crimes, military personal who committed war crimes etc. Most of the families of the Mahinda group are in western countries and their investments are in western countries, not in China or Russia or Pakistan. Even they can take away the US citizenship of Basil. Further these countries can put economic sanctions and travel bans, money transfer too. So, Sri Lanka will become permanent enemy of India and permanent enemy of West. So, Sri Lanka has to become fully dependent on China for everything and you have to sell whole Sri Lanka to China.

    • 4
      0

      People ‘s place in that play ground – is no different to that of the cows that come to eat grass. Ironically, people yet today, are far from grasping the little about Rajapakshe criminals.
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_HyOM_iNlg

      Today. s situation is well explained by ” What goes around comes around”. Former govt was able to balance it to that extent, even if SIRISENA was later caught by MR-GR tricks. Sirisena was much more intelligent than today’s NANDASENA.
      .
      Country’s inflation would turn out to be similar to that of Angola sooner than later ( 23% or more ).
      .
      Then again, Rajapakshes would continue blaming on the previous govt… ha ha.. how long would they be successful ? for sure not forever.

  • 0
    0

    Dear Jehan

    Thank you. GOSL should welcome the investigations and should insists the investigations are about crimes in SL “yes”/third world country/geo politics/foreign criminals conniving with the local mafias/first world countries not sincerely investing in constructive change in the developing countries.

    (1) Crimes in SL started from 1970 onwards when the Jaffna man kicked out the FP/TC bullies from the democracy. Same bullies (FP/TC) now unelected by the people have managed to even coerce the ahimsa king SJV into the “Rath Pottu Killing Fields in Jaffna” so the consensus can be re-harnessed to their needs at gun point with the help with the crooks from Tamil Nadu (not the public but the TN politicians).

  • 1
    0

    (2) The world does not know a single thing about life in SL nor what did really happen in SL now using the UN for their own mandates………that we have witnessed as proud citizens living in many Nations for the past 40-50 years. We witnessed the crimes of those Nations on Nation of people the same so called “victims/mostly economic refugees” continued their investments in the wrong things while we were making genuine refugees all around the world for our life style that even funded our causes in our Mother Lanka we collectively destroyed.

    (3) Foreign interests>> India for participating in the final phase of war and UN for the withdrawals from the war zone should be brought to the same investigations including all other players.

    (4) UN should demonstrate how they did not know what was happening in Jaffna from 1970?? if they did how did they help the victims then and now???

  • 3
    2

    If UNHRC take any action against ‘Ranaviruwo’ who made enormous sacrifices to eradicate LTTE Tamil terrorism and restore peace to all the people in the country; Vedda Eththo, Sinhala, Demala, Muslim, Malay the Government should charge all those who supported separatism for violating the Constitution and strip their Civil Rights and confiscate their movable and immovable property.
    Then all the racist separatist Vellala Demala politicians will have to leave Colombo/Sri Lanka. Poor Sambandan who is living in a luxury house in Colombo 7 provided by the tax payers will have to go to the jungle in Tirikunamale.

  • 1
    2

    The Sri Lankan Armed Forces recued about 300 children used by LTTE Tamil terrorists as combatants and handed them over to their parents. Furthermore, by eradicating LTTE Tamil terrorists parents with children got a sense of relief that their children are safe.
    Why don’t these parents come forward and tell UNHRC and the International Community the agony they went through and how relieved they are thanks to Sri Lankan Armed Forces. If Demalu want reconciliation these are things they should do. Unfortunately, only those who want to charge Sri Lanka Armed Forces as war criminals and human rights violators come forward. Money talks!

    • 0
      0

      Eagle,
      “recued about 300 children used by LTTE Tamil terrorists as combatants and handed them over to their parents.”
      Are you sure they weren’t handed over to cheevaradhariyas?

  • 0
    1

    Royal government is fooling Dr. Jeysankar the same way JR treated Rajiv. There is nothing India can do for Tamils as neither Lankawe or China will give an iota of space India to act. Those who think India’s 13A going to be implemented are as much political juveniles like Dr.Jeysankar who gave free Vaccine to Lankawe hoping to get the Eastern Terminal. There is a chance India being sued as dumped dangerous poisons to Lankawe patients. So far I did not see any big shot taking Indian vaccine. Many are suspicious of Indian Medicine. They took earlier Chinese version, including Pavitra, Old King, Vasu…….. They all fell sick anyway. So they know Chinese one is not effective. But they don’t fear of China medicine. They reject India’s Parai Demelo Dr. Jeysankar’s free donation. No truth about Covid-19 is coming to be confident of anything happening. Months ago people talked as more than 1.5 laks might have infected. In summer Rose said Colombo’s estimated number was 30,000.

  • 3
    0

    Yes, I agree with the Jehan Perera. It is not in the UN & US interests to bully and diminish Sri Lanka. They are humane too, and are working for the better of the globe in this day and age. It is the responsibility of GoSL to understand this, and do the needful for the country, themselves, and the rest of the world.
    !!!
    The glaring China Port City CAN be worked for the good of the global economy. Agreements with India are a necessity for this aim. It’s time we have greater corporation with India whilst keeping our autonomy and sovereignty. Time to end any unnecessary and delusory Sinhala-Buddhist religio-ethnocentric supremacy. Many of our good Buddhist priests have gone to India and converted their masses. As the article says, better housing, livelihoods, and other necessary reparations can be given to suffering Northern Tamil families. . Burial of Muslims under the conditions they themselves have put forwards, like lined graves, should be allowed.
    $$$
    But we find, yet again GoSL is pulling out of the Indian deals, the reparation approach, and burial rights for Muslims. The common consensus is to show Lankan Clout and go strong with China. “Dare to get us then!” The risk factors are enormous.
    ###
    The Dharma factor of a more equanimous world is not being realized.

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