Colombo Telegraph

The Geneva Epidemic And Sri Lanka

 By S. V. Kirubaharan 

S. V. Kirubaharan

The Geneva epidemic is nothing new to Sri Lanka. It has been suffering from it since 1983, during the time of the UN Human Rights Commission and the Sub-commission on Human Rights. But since the file was transferred to the UN Human Rights Council in 2006, the epidemic has been spreading rapidly.

Spin doctors of Sri Lanka are finding it very difficult to deal with. According to the diagnosis the patient may be put in quarantine and eventuality may require an organ transplant.

Geneva is the headquarters for Human Rights. The current President of the UN Human Rights Council – HRC is Mr. Remigiusz Achilles Henczel, the Permanent Representative of Poland. Presently the HRC is in the hands of the USA which is in a position to achieve whatever it wants, without a second thought.

Last March, when the resolution was tabled by the US against Sri Lanka, those who didn’t understand the system had serious doubts whether the resolution would be passed. Exactly six days before the voting, I predicted that it would go through without any problem. My article, What will happen to the draft resolution on Sri Lanka?” was published in various electronic media on 16 March 2012. The resolution was passed on 22 March 2012.

Now let us analyse the reality of the situation today.

Apart from the reasons for the last resolution, there are additional issues motivating member states to introduce another strong resolution. One of the reasons of course, is that even though Sri Lanka will say it has done something in response to the resolution, in the eyes of the world, absolutely nothing has been done in practical terms. Secondly, the matter regarding the Chief Justice has added fuel to the fire. When the international community protested against the impeachment of the Chief Justice, Rajapaksa managed by hook or by crook to remove her.  At the same time a Chief Justice was appointed who was well known internationally as a government lobbyist. The international community’s serious doubts about the independence of the judiciary in Sri Lanka were proved beyond doubt.

The statement on Sri Lanka given by the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Rights on 18 January 2013, contains the DNA of the Chief Justice affair. It indicates what will happen in the forthcoming 22nd session of the HRC.

Thirdly, the UN Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel on UN action in Sri Lanka released last November is adding a welcome liveliness for those who want to see action on Sri Lanka. This report contains very serious allegations that Sri Lanka was lying during the war to the international community and the United Nations.

Fourthly, the last Universal Periodic Review – UPR session on Sri Lanka which took place on 1st and 5th November 2012 was a really bad show for Sri Lanka. A record number of 99 States participated in the dialogue – 37 Members of HRC and 61 observer states. Out of the 61 observer states, Sri Lanka motivated some of them who are supportive to Sri Lanka, to register for participation. So time allocation for the speeches of states critical of Sri Lanka would effectively be reduced. (Read here)

Most of the states who participated in the dialogue made recommendations. There were 204 recommendations, out of which 110 were accepted and the other 94 were rejected by Sri Lanka.

Some of the rejected recommendations are:

(1) Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. (2) Seriously consider the possibility of abolishing the death penalty. (3)  Adopt the draft bill on witness and victim protection. (4) Fully implement the recommendations of the LLRC – in particular steps to ensure independent and effective investigations into all allegations of serious human rights violations in the context of the civil war and its aftermath. (5) Iinitiate an inclusive dialogue which would guarantee minority representatives a fair joint-decision power on the basis of the four previous proposals (APRC Expert Majority Report, All Party Representative Committee Report, Proposals for Constitutional Reforms, and Mangala Report). (6) Intensify its cooperation with the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to establish the fate of those who may have not been accounted for at the end of the armed conflict. (7) Guarantee access to the North and the East of the country to international and local humanitarian organizations specialized on family tracing and reunification programs. (8)  Reduce the intrusiveness of military presence on civilian life in the North and set a specific date for free and fair Northern Provincial Council elections. (9) Strengthen cooperation with the UN human rights mechanisms, particularly Special Procedures and respond in a timely manner to the questionnaires sent by the Special Procedures and request for visits of Special rapporteurs. (10) Create a reliable investigation commission consisting of professional and independent investigators to identify, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of the Moothur murders. (11)  Publish the names and places of detention of all imprisoned persons. (12) Adopt further measures to prevent torture and ill-treatment in particular in prison and detention centres. (13) Take all necessary steps to fully commit to end impunity for international crimes by acceding to the Rome Statute of the ICC. (14) Implement the recommendations of the UN Panel of Experts on accountability. (15) Bring all those allegedly responsible for violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law to justice in compliance with international standards. (16) Safeguard the independence of the judiciary. (17) Take immediate steps to prevent attacks on human rights defenders and media and take action to investigate such acts and many others.

Sri Lanka’s rejection of the above recommendations speaks volumes.

On the other hand, consider the 110 recommendations accepted by Sri Lanka. The question arises whether it was necessary for any state to make these recommendations under the UPR process. Out of the 110 recommendations, many were circulated beforehand, by Sri Lanka, to states supportive of them.

Some of the accepted recommendations are:

(1) Accelerate capacity building in order to effectively implement the NHRAP. (2) Ensure adequate resources to the Human Rights National Commission to further improve its capacity, geographical scope and its mandate. (3) Enable additional resources to strengthen the Human Rights Commission. (4) Share with the international community its experiences in rehabilitating and reintegrating former LTTE child soldiers. (5) Continue to carry out the policy aimed at improving the judicial system, reforming law enforcement bodies and decreasing the level of crime and corruption. (6) Continue action towards the alleviation of poverty. (7) Continue with its plans to enhance economic development in all regions of Sri Lanka. (8) Continue working to achieve all the Millennium Development Goals. (9) Achieve stability and development in the country. (10) Take steps to protect people from acts of terrorism, through domestic legislation.

This is where Sri Lankan diplomacy has failed. They rejected 94 recommendations on the basis of sovereignty. If they had accepted many of those rejected recommendations, even if with reservations, Sri Lanka would have survived for another four years until the 3rd cycle of the UPR.

Now, as Sri Lanka’s spin doctors have rejected those recommendations on the grounds that they interfere with sovereignty, the states who put forward those rejected recommendations may work persuasively to get them included in the forthcoming resolution. That will have a time limit stipulated. Further, a Resolution carries much more weight than a UPR recommendation.

It is obvious that whatever resolution is proposed against Sri Lanka in the 22nd session, it will go through without any hurdles. The 47 member HRC consists of 13 countries from Africa, 13 from Asia, 8 from Latin American and Carribbean States, 7 from Western European and 6 from Eastern Europe.

When we look at the present membership of the HRC, it is clear that the US is going to be in a strong position until 2015. Not because China, Cuba and Russia are no longer in the HRC, but because of the members newly elected to the HRC on 12 November 2012. Also, when we look at the countries whose membership terminates by the end of 2013; the US will be in a stronger position than at present. Therefore any resolution tabled by the US or supported by US will enjoy huge support among the 47 HRC members.

Considering all these factors, President Rajapaksa has enough time to decide whether he is going to send another Jumbo team to Geneva for the next HRC session, providing them with five star food and lodging, or to save this taxpayers’ money and use it locally for some other useful purpose.

In fact, last time one or two states changed their position at the last minute, due to the arrogant attitude of some of the members in the Jumbo team. Of course, those notorious members in the Jumbo team  received their material benefits and regained their position which they lost in the past. But Sri Lanka lost its reputation internationally.

Anyway the present statements by officials of the External ministry of Sri Lanka, Ministers like Mahinda Samarasinghe and Keheliya Rambukkala are misinforming the local population. To talk frankly, these individuals already know the outcome of the 22nd session on Sri Lanka, but they are politically bound to hide the truth from their innocent citizens. These are the usual political gimmicks. Given the disease, its symptoms are not going to disappear, it needs addressing at the level of root causes.

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