20 May, 2022


The UN Human Rights System And Its Relevance To Us

By R.M.B Senanayake – 

R.M.B. Senanayake

R.M.B. Senanayake

The recent violence against the Muslims in Alutgama and Beruwala are being discussed in civil society and in the Opposition political party. Discussions are mainly on what happened and who is to blame. Most people end up blaming both communities. But different communities will always have differences of opinion. But resorting to violence is not an option for any community to resolve such differences. Don’t we have a government which was elected on the Sinhala Buddhist vote? Surely if any Buddhist monk or group of Buddhist monks have a complaint against any other community shouldn’t he or they take up the issue with the Government? Have they done so? Can anybody in society including Buddhist monks resort to violence?

In July 1983 the government of President J.R Jayawardene failed to protect the Tamils who were subject to violent attacks by mobs. He failed to maintain the Rule of Law by declaring Emergency and calling out the Forces. It is true that the incident was sparked off by the killing of 13 soldiers. Would the Army have refused to obey the orders of the President? If so what was his option? Rumor has it that some Buddhist monks prevented the President from declaring Emergency. But some say the President wanted to teach the Tamils a lesson.  Whatever it was , it was the failure to protect the unarmed civilians that led to the intervention of the Indian government in the ethnic issue in our country.

The view of Mr. Mangala Samaraweera as well as several others is that the violence itself was contrived by the Government. Whether this is so or not will be difficult to prove or disprove. But that is not the most relevant issue. They say President MR has to create a new enemy of the Sinhala Buddhists to win their votes at the next Presidential election. He won earlier because he was the champion of the Sinhala Buddhists against the LTTE. He needs another enemy they say to win the votes of the Sinhala Buddhists who number 70% of the population. So these people say that it is necessary to create a new enemy and the Muslims and the Christians have been earmarked for the exercise. It is necessary to demonize them first. This is being done. But that is not enough. The Muslims must be provoked so that they will resort to counter attacks. So the richer Muslims particularly the shopkeepers have been targeted. It is very necessary that there should be counter violence by the Muslims for this plan to succeed. Some Muslims like the Jews believe in ‘eye for an eye’ or a tooth for a tooth”. But to do so would be a great mistake and will be playing into the hands of the provocateurs.

The United Nations (UN) has created a global structure for protecting human rights, based largely on its Charter, aimed at advancing democracy and human rights throughout the world. Our government has not realized that there is a world body in place which is above the nation state and that this world body has adopted a code of conduct for States. Sri Lanka has subscribed to the UN Declaration on Human Rights and our Government is legally and morally bound to obey the UN Charter. Our Parliament cannot refuse the right of its citizens to invoke the UNO.  If the State violates human rights of people, then the people have a right if not a duty to invoke the aid of the UNO. Minister Rauf Hakim was right to bring the violation of the human rights by the Government to the notice of the UN HRC.

One of the most difficult decisions faced by people is what to do when a state is perpetrating gross human rights violations against its own peoples or sections of its own peoples, causing a humanitarian catastrophe to unfold. Would it be unpatriotic for a people to report the matter of the violations of their human rights to the UNO? This is based on a false concept of patriotism. It doesn’t mean to support my country right or wrong and equating the country with the Government.  If the right to strike back is curtailed as it is in the UN Charter except in self defense, then the victims must have some other course of action when the State fails to protect them from violence by other communities.

The human rights discourse has gathered significant pace over the past sixty years and it is now widely accepted by the international community that sovereign states have an obligation to protect their peoples from gross human rights violations and consequently to refrain from perpetrating such violations or permitting them to take place without protecting the victims.  The notion of state sovereignty is no longer an absolutist conception where the state is the sole master of its internal affairs. It is now predicated upon the effective undertaking of responsibilities expected of a state, as determined by the international community, including the protection of the fundamental human rights of ALL its peoples.  If a State fails to do so it cannot affirm that its sovereignty is being violated. Its sovereignty carries the obligation to uphold the human rights of ALL its subjects. So if the State fails to protect the human rights of the Muslims they would have a legal right to appeal to the UNO. There is convincing evidence, generally accepted by the international community as a whole, of extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale, requiring immediate and urgent relief. Such relief can take various forms but the ultimate remedy if all else fails is the use of force if lives are to be saved. This is called humanitarian intervention.

The first catastrophe that led to the call for humanitarian intervention was the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. In the space of approximately 100 days, over half a million Tutsis were killed by the Hutu government and a further two million sought refuge in neighboring countries.

Where a state fails to discharge its responsibilities the international community is required to react and take the necessary steps, which may ultimately include the use of military force, to prevent gross human rights violations occurring in that State. Of course humanitarian intervention may require the approval of the Security Council where two Powers -Russia and China may veto any such military intervention as in the case of Syria. But individual States can take actions against such a State. So let not the Government repeat the mistake of J.R.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    ” The United Nations (UN) has created a global structure for protecting human rights, based largely on its Charter “

    Or has it? Is it this UN project that that the US following, which is busy even now funding, training, and arming terrorist groups in Syria in pursuit of ‘democracy’, as was achieved in Ukraine where both the new President and the new Prime Minister are not ethnic Ukrainians. Those who rather foolishly believed that they had carried out a revolution have been left high and dry, and have been forcibly evicted from the Maidan (the Square). Such illegal regime changes are the order of the day.

    The Afghan President wanted the US troops gone, but the US hopes the new President will be more amenable to their demands for permanent bases. The US troops that the Iraqi government had got rid off some time ago, have now found a way to creep back in, the door being opened by the assault on Iraq by terrorist groups trained, funded and armed by US proxies in the area. What the local population WANTS and their HUMAN RIGHTS do not come into the picture. The silence from the UN and Banki Moon is deafening.

  • 0

    “But individual States can take actions against such a State. So let not the Government repeat the mistake of J.R.”

    Champika was not born during “parripu drop” to understand the situation.
    Gota thinks if N.Korea, Maynmmar, Zimbawwe & Sriya can do it within UN, why not him.

  • 1

    R.M.B Senanayake –

    “Don’t we have a government which was elected on the Sinhala Buddhist vote? Surely if any Buddhist monk or group of Buddhist monks have a complaint against any other community shouldn’t he or they take up the issue with the Government? Have they done so? Can anybody in society including Buddhist monks resort to violence?”

    What we have is unequal application of laws and state sponsorship of Para-Sinhalese Buddhist terrorism, in the Land of Native Veddah, by those alien Paras from south India, who claim to follow the Para-Buddhism, based n the lies and imaginations of Para-Monk Mahanama.

  • 2

    So, the logical conclusion is:

    Sri Lanka is a failed state, continuing to fail in its responsibilities to protect all citizens.

    UN must construct viable stat(s) to protect all peoples inhabiting the island.

    Appe Aanduava is boru annduva – it has failed!

  • 1

    Very interesting. The human rights factor of an entire population of a country is tied to good governance, justice and fairplay. All of which are lost in our country Sri Lanka. Thereby we are faced with so many human rights violations taking place on a daily basis.

    Lets start from the very beginning with killing of journalists and anyone expressing opposing views on government matters (like exposing corruption, nepotism, abuse of power, etc.,). White van abductions were quite common until recently, with subsequent killings or on the list of still missing persons. The latest ploy being the creating of racial disharmony through hate speech and fear mongering, thus distracting public attention on other pertinent issues of public interest.

    Next we come to actual brutal attacks on minority communities through rabble rousing, fear mongering combined with espousing racial hatred, having undertones of an inferiority complex and also blame game tactics. These are carried out meticulously with intentions to rouse the flames of insecurity through identity loss, (they expect allegedly no more Sinhalese Buddhists to live in Sri Lanka in a few years time, due to conversions, over population of Muslims through bearing many more children per family, whereas in actual fact, the present population stands at 75% Sinhalese, 11% Hindus, 9% Muslims and balance 5% all other religions combined), and various other ruses. They want a fitting retaliation to fight back with superiority in numbers, which can crush the opposition. They orchestrate unprecedented attacks on minorities, which are clear to see as premeditated and carried out to military precision. They are able to identify, isolate and destroy all personal and commercial properties which belong to Muslims, including their places of religious worship.

    In a way, we are very Similar to Rwanda’s ‘Tutsi’ tribes (Christian and Muslim civilians) getting slaughtered, their homes, churches and Mosques smashed and destroyed, homes looted and set on fire by ‘Hutu’ government forces (which are Sinhalese Police and Sinhalese Armed forces), not forgetting of couse their supporters and Agents on the ground, the fascist Buddhist monk group called BBS (Bodu Bala Sena) who are in fact their foot soldiers.

    Arson, looting including shooting to kill at point blank range, are the most common weapons and methods used. Following this comes the fabricated lies after lies to thwart the evidence to be further from the truth.

    Then its the fabrication of false evidence to apportion blame on the victims, which is always the norm. Their objective is to justify their attacks by blaming the victims as the aggressors who threw the first stone.

    Then comes the conspiracy theories of foreign collaborations – again making ridiculous claims that the victims the guilty party. No shortage of names such as infamous Al Queda, Taliban and Al Shabab all waiting in the wings. All this whilst the pot is still simmering with no proper investigations and arrests of the true perpetrators of the crimes, which could put the matter to rest.

    The only thing that will happen is some small poor fish, powerless and fearful to stage a fightback, gets caught stealing, probably from the victims themselves and then official claims of arrests are made, to fool the public, whilst the main culprits are free to move around in super luxury vehicles, with STF (Special Task Force) security members in tow.

    Ultimately, not even a neutral figure will sit in judgment to expect a fair ruling, thereby innocent victims will end up in jail, for all the wrong reasons. Entire youthful lives put to waste and ruined.

    Of late, this is best of The Human Rights dished out by the Powers be, that anyone can expect in this resplendent (or should it be – most repulsive) isle.

  • 1

    For all here who live as minorities in foreign lands: imagine the majority in your country of residence forming mobs and coming down your street to burn your house down and kill you. What would you feel?

    For those who lived in Sri Lanka during the civil war: remember what it felt like when you heard a rumour (or real news) that the Tigers (or the sinhalese or muslim) mobs were coming down your street to burn your house down and kill you. What would you feel?

    In that situation, if the police, army and the politicians are not providing you with assurance of safety, would you not want the UN or some other more powerful body to come to your rescue?

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