25 September, 2020

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The High Commissioner’s Report & The UNHRC Resolution: The Two Are Not One

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The presentation of the Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ will take place at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on 20 March 2019. Some of the recommendations contained in this report are contentious ones. They will not be viewed favourably by the majority of people in Sri Lanka. One of these calls for the setting up of a hybrid court to look into war crimes allegations. Such hybrid courts, which include international judges, are set up where the justice system (and the country itself) has largely collapsed, which is not the case in Sri Lanka. Another recommendation calls on the international community to apply the principle of universal jurisdiction on Sri Lankans accused of crimes such as torture, enforced disappearance and war crimes.

The High Commissioner’s recommendations are not decisions of the international community but are recommendations that could become unnecessary if Sri Lanka takes sufficient corrective action. The more important matter to be taken up by the UN Human Rights Council will be the draft resolution on Sri Lanka on the same theme of ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’. This is the one that Sri Lanka has agreed to sign as co-sponsor, and is scheduled to be taken up on the following day of 21 March 2019. Unlike the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights which contains observations and recommendations, the resolution on Sri Lanka will contain the decisions and pledges made by the Sri Lankan government at the prodding of the international community for implementation. But these are the same commitments that Sri Lanka made three and half years ago when it co-signed UNHRC resolution 30/1 of October 2015.

Both extremes of Sri Lanka’s ethnically divided society have sought to prevent the government getting a further two year extension to implement UNHRC Resolution 30/1 of October 2015. Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa announced his stance in parliament that Sri Lanka should withdraw as a co-sponsor of the resolution. He said “It is reported through the media that a hybrid court will be formed for violations related to human rights in Sri Lanka and a UN human rights office should be established here as well. The stance of the president and the prime minister is contradictory and I believe that we should withdraw from this motion”. Until the last moment it appeared that President Maithripala Sirisena himself was in opposition to what the government was doing. He planned to send a special three member delegation to the UNHRC to represent. While no separate presidential delegation will be going now, there is still a question mark as to what the position of the president’s representatives will be in Geneva on March 20 and 21.

Extremes Meet 

Those who oppose the co-sponsoring of the UNHRC resolution by the Sri Lankan government need to also consider what might have happened if the government had not agreed to it. The pre-2015 government led by opposition leader and former president Rajapaksa took the position that Sri Lanka did not need to heed the international community on matters of its own internal affairs. But the resulting outcomes were fraught with difficulty and loss to the country. Due to the Rajapaksa government’s refusal to cooperate with the international community Sri Lanka lost the GSP Plus tariff concession of the European Union and thereby lost markets in garment and fisheries exports at the cost of income and livelihoods within the country. In addition, there was a looming prospect of tougher sanctions including travel bans being imposed on Sri Lankan government and military personnel and barriers in their path to participate in UN peacekeeping forces.

At the other extreme, Tamil nationalist parties and the Tamil Diaspora have also called upon the international community not to provide Sri Lanka with an extension of the time frame to implement its commitments under Resolution 30/1 of October 2015. University students and even mainstream Tamil politicians in Jaffna have protested against the extension of the UNHRC resolution. The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), reiterated its call for a referral to the International Criminal Court. “Sri Lanka’s complete and utter failure to make even the most minimal efforts to deliver justice to victims and their families cannot be tolerated. The international community must end its complacency with the impunity Sri Lanka extends to the perpetrators of some of the gravest crimes committed this century…The Human Rights Council must pass a resolution establishing an international investigative mechanism including a referral of the situation of Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court.”

The important thing to note is that the latest resolution that Sri Lanka has agreed to co-sign will contain no more than what Sri Lanka agreed to implement in October 2015. Therefore, it is inaccurate to claim, as some members of the opposition claim, that the government has got the country deeper into an international trap. The latest resolution gives Sri Lanka more time to implement the pledges and commitments it made in October 2015. The resolution of March 2019 will be on the same lines of Resolution 34/1 of March 2017 that gave Sri Lanka two more years to implement its pledges and commitments. As the government has been slow in implementing the pledges and commitments it made in October 2015, the UNHRC will be giving the government yet another two more years to fulfill them. It is also important to note that there is a difference between the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is an administrative document of that office, and the UNHRC resolution which is a political document obtained through the concurrence of the member countries of the UN Human Rights Council.

Credible Process 

In view of the controversy surrounding the Geneva process, Sri Lankans need to be informed about the main issues that continue to be matters of concern for the international community and human rights organisations. The latest update of these concerns are to be found in the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. It has stated that slow progress in establishing meaningful transitional justice measures has engendered mistrust among victims and other stakeholders. The slow progress covers nearly all the main areas that Sri Lanka had committed itself to delivering on, including finding missing persons, returning land, release of detainees held without trial, replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and bringing those accused of war-related crimes and other serious crimes to justice. It is the last of these issues that is the most politically contentious and given rise to most misgivings among the population.

At the same time, the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also stated that there had been progress in some significant areas. It noted that “Since 2015, the general situation has improved with regard to civil and political rights: there have been advances with respect to freedom of expression and assembly, incipient efforts made to consult representatives of civil society, a robust right to information framework has been established, and independent commissions, such as the Human Rights Commission, have been strengthened, and relations between security forces and civilians have improved. As noted above, commendable progress has also been witnessed in the State’s cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms.” It also commended Sri Lankan state institutions for holding to their mandates during the two month long political crisis at the end of last year. The report stated that “The High Commissioner joins the Secretary-General in welcoming the resolution of the political crisis in Sri Lanka through peaceful, constitutional means, and applauds the resilience of the country’s democratic institutions.”

Sri Lanka will soon be facing the international community in Geneva. We can draw inspiration from a poem that Nelson Mandela recited to his fellow prisoners to encourage them to overcome their present and look to a better future. “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” (English poet William Ernest Henley 1849–1903). The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ call to Investigate and prosecute in accordance with universal jurisdiction principles is in the absence of credible domestic processes. During the political crisis at the end of last year, the UN High Commissioner’s report itself pointed out that Sri Lankan institutions were able to conduct themselves in a peaceful and constitutional manner. If Sri Lankan institutions act with integrity and do their duty in a sustained manner there will be no need for either universal jurisdiction or hybrid courts to become operational or for further international interventions to facilitate national reconciliation.

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Latest comments

  • 6
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    Jehan Perera ,
    Are Sinhalese Buddhists politicians following Buddhism? The answer is no. In Sri Lanka if the clergy who preach Buddhism do not follow Buddhism what can we expect?

    Would they care about UN??

    • 4
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      Anpu,

      Pristine Buddhism and Para-Sinhala Para-“Buddhism” are two different things.

      Don’t go by the label they call themselves, as “Buddhists”. Para-Sinhala “Buddhists” are an Insult to the enlightened Buddha.

      Of course, the monks and politicians, use Buddhism to their advantage, like Islam, Hinduism and Christianity by the Ulama and Priests.

    • 4
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      Anpu

      “Are Sinhalese Buddhists politicians following Buddhism?”

      It is Sinhala/Buddhism, a fascist ideology.

    • 7
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      Jehan Perera, Why is US citizen who had command responsibility for war crimes, Gotabaya Rajapaksa free as a bird, while the US is violating the Human Rights of Chago Islanders in Diego Garcia military base in the Indian Ocean?!
      The UNHRC ritual farce against the people of Lanka is a huge waste of time and resources and a distraction from the real issues. It is part of the politics of distraction, like the “war on drugs” and the continuing weaponization of Buddhism – this time via the UN Tripitaka Project and stories about Tibet against China being circulated and the JVP joke to abolish the Presidency when the president’s powers have been massively curbed the 19th Amendment!

      UNHRC is a distraction form the US Human Rights Endgame in Sri Lanka which is low intensity economic war fare to crash the economy and force Lanka into setting up a Military Base in Trincomalee, which the right wing Heritage Foundation has confirmed exists already as a US Navy Logistics Hub in Trinco.

      • 1
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        Donuk,

        Double Standards.

    • 0
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      Anpu@
      as you know if you would worry much not having dhal curry plus some other most demading curries (vegetable s) for your rice+curry meal, those men down there in SL inlcuding political leaders, would not agree to enjoy their meal.

      Likewise, their kind of politics is based on BUDDHAGAMA (not the real teachings of the LB, but the version made for the survivals of srilanken so called buddhists), racism and extremism if they want to survive politically. Not for all the leaders in power, but for Rajapkashes, the would not have their political journey sans RACISM/EXTREMISM. Their the scarf, SATAKAs to become that reddened should be connected with the blood of the victimized, created by them.
      .
      This, incumbent president SIRISENA reiterated to the world, in an audio tape, during their recent 52-d conspiracy. There, he went on saying, ” it was Rajapakshes who was after DIGANA MUSLIM riots, it was also the Rajapakshes behind the Kandy riots. And the master mind of Kandy riots according to the president’s experts, that SARATH WEERASEKARA, the man, who is used to take part in GENEVA sessions annually, he would always see it, that entire world is behind us the tiny nation (but they feel us to be like JEWs in their frog-in-a-well mentality).

  • 3
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    Jegan, Your statement “where the justice system (and the country itself) has largely collapsed, which is not the case in Sri Lanka.” is not true. You cannot separate out the law and order (police, military, parliament, President) from judiciary system. In Srilankan politics almost all the institutions including justice system are politicised and racism is institutionalised. When the most powerful President of this country says that none of the military personal will brought under justice for any crimes they committed, how do you say justice system is not collapsed?

  • 3
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    Nelson Mandela, rest is soul, would turn in his grave to find genocidaires and war criminals taking solace in words that came to represent his struggle.

    It is clear Sri Lankas institutions turn a blind eye to justice for those who are not Sinhala Buddhists – and that is why the International Community is acting. The UN report was damning about the justice system.

    The truth is out .. Sri Lanka needs to implement its commitments to the UN and to the Tamils. It only gets worse for Sri Lanka from here.

  • 5
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    Why is it taking so long for the Western countries to realise that the GoSL the current or the past one were and are NOT interested in carrying out the UN resolutions on bringing Justice to the WAR VICTIMS. Reconciliation and respect to the minorities rights are not the real concern of Sinhalese. This is where DEMOCRACY is FAILING miserably in so many countries— SL/Burma etc etc

  • 5
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    Saying these are two and not one, is like saying the trigger and the rifle are two and not one.

    • 7
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      Like carrying UN charter in one hand and gun in the other hand

  • 4
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    The new report has implicated SL armed forces in the alleged Mannar mass killing. The report has been prepared before the carbon dating reports of the Mannar mass grave was made public. So we can understand the real nature of rest of the content in UN report.

  • 2
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    Dear Jehan
    Every single killing in Jaffna since 1970 and what happed to our ‘children’ in the training camps in the neighbouring countries will bring context to all the UN discussions…………real education for the world to open their eyes to what is happening in Indian Ocean.
    UN need to know we are all looking for justice for our loved ones and our loss of Nations hood too…..will never be buried under this fake war crime discussions.
    A very well measured/acceptable to all solutions were offered by Hon MR then…….before and after the war no one cared…..the same countries worked together to complete the war no one cared…..UN withdrew from the scene no one cared……..now the same players never mention the foreign country sponsored terrorism and work hand and glove to penalise our Nation after assisting the GOSL with the war?? should this human rights crusaders bark at their host countries and take them to the tribunals?? I do not see such vigils in European countries to date…I guess too busy making a living perhaps…..only the poor mothers lost their children sitting vigils in SL being baked in the sun light?? ask the old and burdening diaspora to come and sit vigil with them in SL is what UN should encourage??
    War affected (every singly Sri Lankan family)are the beneficiary of this which hunt?????..kidding me……ask this people too go and fly kite somewhere else please.
    When TULF said separate state no one questioned and got voted in a ‘not a free election’ in 1977..then we they were getting to our senses in 1981 for the Development Council elections the tide was turning TULF killed all their opponents in Jaffna…..when the TNA says constitutional changes and got voted in after all our children dead and gone?? JVP has to explain the process to the Idiots….

    • 4
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      Mr Venugopal,
      “A very well measured/acceptable to all solutions were offered by Hon MR then…….before and after the war”
      Please educate us with evidence.

      • 1
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        Dear Anpu

        IT IS VERY HARD FOR ME TO GIVE YOU ANSWERS SINCERELY BECAUSE I DO NOT KNOW YOUR POLITICAL BELIEVES.

        Depends on what your believes were/are you will see what you want to see from what I say….people like us were killed for our own believes is something I choose not to do to others because they differ from my view and is their birth right to hold such views.

        Before Guns came into being in Jaffna in 1970’s we did have a normal country with similar problems as others in any developing country and then the equations were changed to have the death rate we never ever had in SL based on TULF solutions.

        Everything is relative based on the longest war going no where except we were all dying………now no war we are still going no where…….for me my life is over and I am more focused on the future generations well being just like you all are…….except a big except depending on your believes you may want to allow others to find solutions too as is their language/culture/heritage/Nation/birthright etc….they may very have the solutions ‘we’ are all seeking that is justice for all……..

        Since I am opposed to what any armed insurrection did in my country Up north and down South is difficult to discuss the solutions offered by the governments as all were lost in the process of killing for a very long time………..30+ years of war all we knows death nothing but death for what??

        Basically I have no straight answers to your question.

        • 1
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          Mr Venugopal,

          What I asked you is -“Please educate us with evidence.” to provide some evidence to what you have said in your previous comment.
          “A very well measured/acceptable to all solutions were offered by Hon MR then…….before and after the war”

          You replied “IT IS VERY HARD FOR ME TO GIVE YOU ANSWERS SINCERELY BECAUSE I DO NOT KNOW YOUR POLITICAL BELIEVES.
          Depends on what your believes were/are you will see what you want to see from what I say…”

          It is nothing do with my believe.

          What I was asking is to substantiate what you have said. You have failed in that.

      • 5
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        Anpu,
        Me Venugopal got all the solutions to his personal problems from his master Hon MR & GR.

        • 1
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          Dear Ajith

          You could be my Master/leader and solve all my ‘personal problems’ in a our democracy any time Bro.

          Killing me softly not an option as you started the conversation with calling my Father all kinds of names?? how?

          Can I trust you will not kill me too? and justify to the world why they should let you live amongst them? thinking you are a victim?? need love and compassion?

          GOSL was unable to find the killiers of my Father and so many other Tamils in Jaffna do you think is ok?? why you think is the case?? when you have answers to this you will see the bigger picture of my personal problems Bro. You are always welcome as nothing is ever too late.

  • 4
    3

    These UN resolutions are nothing but global political tactics for various invested countries to further their agenda and is totally devoid of genuine concern for reconciliation within Sri Lanka. They are intended to be used as points of leverage for the US, EU and India to threaten Sri Lanka with economic and pseudo-military embargoes, so they can rape us of our natural resources and infrastructure, such as the ports (including airports), oil tanks and our strategic location that can be used to intimidate and harass their rivals including China and Iran.

    If there are any Tamils who really want genuine reconciliation between the ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, they should work within Sri Lanka and across ethnic lines to build a practical and stable coalition, instead of trying to pit one country against another on the international arena. Such an exercise will surely ruin the Sri Lankan economy, and not accomplish the much touted “reconciliation”, nor would it lay the ground work for a future Tamil Ealam.

    But in the meanwhile……

    it definitely will fatten the wallets of Tamils in the diaspora who pine for Ealam, from forced and voluntary financial contributions, give western politicians (especially Corbyn and his ilk) more bargaining power in the UK, Canada, Norway etc., and the Sri Lankan collaborators (politicians and INGOS) disproportionate power to abuse the very people they are claiming to help.

    • 3
      3

      Hi
      50% of Tamils live amongst the Sinhalese speaking fellow countrymen. The rest live up North and some in East including the diaspora oveseas.

      The Northern Tamils politics were shaped at gun point and not through educated/free and fair mandate of any nature since 1970. the fact GOSL could not take care of this up north just as they did with the JVP has resulted in the carnage we had in SL for the past 40years. That is 40 years out of the 70years of Independence spent on allowing the Tamil children trained/armed in Tamil Nadu to silence the Tamils first and then matters were taken up with GOSL hence the war. For 40years we were all defined into this as Tamils and Sinhalese does not mean a think to me personally.

      Let us hope the JVP and TNA can go around full berth of the country together and explain what they stood for (after explaining to each other the issues as they see them) and what they fought for to every citizen of SL will result in Peace and Reconciliation such we the SL majority can accept these folks officially to the mainstream politics/communal life. Until then all is an artificial arrangement/pointless discussions. It will not become so because it is repeated enough nationally and internationally and by the UN.

      JVP do not represent Sinhalese and TNA does not represent Tamils. We all live in a democratic country where our right to choose was taken away at gun point for so long is what UN need to address.

      Only difference is JVP has National Policies and TNA does not and we need to know how this is allowed in a democracy??

    • 0
      0

      The priests of all religions seek power, Buddhismn is no exception.Is it true that they sold the original Tooth relic to the Portugesed.I believe it becaue a priest is alway a pariah and c ould do anmy para deeds.

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

  • 2
    1

    ” If Sri Lankan institutions act with integrity and do their duty in a sustained manner there will be no need for either universal jurisdiction or hybrid courts to become operational or for further international interventions to facilitate national reconciliation. “

    Other than Sumanthiran, Tamils are unanimously not going to entertain this dupe, orchestrated by Sinhala Buddhists for 70 years, from the time of Don Stephen. Don Stephen said to Tamils, “hey Tamils let Ceylonese to rule us, not foreigners”. Now even the name Ceylon is changed into Sinhala Buddhist and Lankawe’s Sinhala Buddhists are ruling Tamils. Tamils don’t want any more talks like liberating Tamil with Humanitarian Rescue Mission Operation with Zero casualties. On the Sinhala Buddhist liberation of Tamils, they lost 150,000 of them in five months. The first thing Tamils want is International Investigation.
    It is not the hybrid Court, but it is the International Investigation Tamils want.

  • 4
    0

    Jehan Perera claims ” They will not be viewed favourably by the majority of people in Sri Lanka. One of these calls for the setting up of a hybrid court to look into war crimes allegations. Such hybrid courts, which include international judges, are set up where the justice system (and the country itself) has largely collapsed, which is not the case in Sri Lanka.” The call for a hybrid court to investigate war crimes is not something new. It is there in Resolution 30/1 of 2015.
    The judiciary has gained some reputation which it lost during the dictatorship of Mahinda Rajapaksa thanks to 19A. Still, the judiciary is full of biased judges who read the lips. Otherwise how one explains the judges giving orders not to arrest Gotabaya who is facing corruption charges? Or some judges recuse themselves from hearing cases against Gootabaya.

  • 1
    1

    Jehan Perera as articulated eloquently the present situation surrounding the UNHRC sessions in progress in general and the Report from the office of the UNHRC on Sri Lanka distinguishing it from the draft resolution on Sri Lanka on ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’. He clearly says it is on the same theme.
    There is no doubt in my mind about the clarity of the article. The ‘gembos in the well’ are not getting it – including those fabricators of truth with a gly AmericanPhD tag!!
    He has pointed out about the application of ‘Universal Jurisdiction’.
    Let me remind the ill informed, Gerneral Pinochet, former dictator of Chile after retirement, while visiting London for medical treatment was arrested and detained for a year and a half. This in spite of him traveling on a diplomatic passport.UK courts detained him on a warrant issued by a Spanish court acting under the principle of ‘Universal Jurisdiction’.

    • 0
      0

      Ugli american: As long as long as Srilanka is not under the full control of MCC, and american companies Srilanka gets this kind of CRAP. fortunately we are not yet Venezuela. On the other hand, we do not have a BRAVE FIDEL CASTRO.. NGOs are decoys. MCC and poor gouging companies are in hiding.

      • 0
        1

        JD

        Never mind Late Hon Fidel Castro We draw inspiration from Tamil Nadu next door.

        The epicentre for all futuristic in Indian Ocean.

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