24 May, 2022


Too Clever By Half: Has Sri Lanka Trapped Itself In Geneva?

By Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka

Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka

It’s been 8 years since the war, and Sri Lanka just signed off in Geneva on a resolution that said Zaid al Hussain, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should play a strengthened role in Sri Lanka. He might as well sit in Cabinet! 

The new resolution, having praised Sri Lanka for its ‘positive engagement’ with the Office of the High Commissioner, which then should sit back with a sigh of relief and let this cooperative government do its obedient thing, actually adds a paragraph, specifically for the purpose of instructing Zaid to strengthen his advice and technical assistance.

Usually when a country is ‘in compliance’ as they say, no further strengthening is included in subsequent resolutions. All assistance is covered in a general statement of obtaining technical assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner. So what exactly does ‘strengthening’ imply?

The final paragraph offers a clue. It is a reiteration of the last fabulous resolution (30/1 of 2015) which “Requests the Office of the High Commissioner to continue to assess progress on the implementation of its recommendations”.

Notice that it says ‘its recommendations’. It’s not the operative clauses of the resolution that he is meant to monitor but the recommendations of the Office of the High Commissioner!

Just to update anyone who is confused about the difference between the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner, the former is “an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.” We are bound by what it recommends as a member of the United Nations.

The High Commissioner, on the other hand is an official appointed by the UN Secretary General. He can make recommendations but we are only bound to be grateful for his efforts, and to consider them favorably.

In considering them however, countries like ours, developing countries, have to bear an important factor in mind. The Office of the High Commissioner is “funded from the United Nations regular budget and from voluntary contributions from Member States, intergovernmental organizations, foundations and individuals.”

Voluntary Contributions are additional funds given by rich countries, which pay for staffers and projects of their choosing. It is inevitable that this introduces a certain lack of impartiality to their work. There have been many suggestions that voluntary contributions should stop and the UN should only use the regular budget.

In making his recommendations, the High Commissioner is bound by the General Assembly Resolution 48/141 that appointed him to:

“…Function within the framework of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1/ other international instruments of human rights and international law, including the obligations, within this framework, to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and domestic jurisdiction of States…”

The High Commissioner is bound by Resolution 48/141 to act:

“…under the direction and authority of the Secretary-General; within the framework of the overall competence, authority and decisions of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Commission on Human Rights.”

The resolutions further state that his responsibility is:

“To carry out the tasks assigned to him/her by the competent bodies of the United Nations system in the field of human rights and to make recommendations to them with a view to improving the promotion and protection of all human rights.”

So, we are not bound by the High Commissioner’s recommendations unless we voluntarily co-sign a resolution of the Council, which includes the recommendations of the High Commissioner. Which is exactly what Sri Lanka, under this Government, has done, twice over—in 2015 and 2017!

The recommendations of this High Commissioner, at the latest session of the Council, includes the following:

  • Embrace the report of the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms”. This, for the readers’ information, is the committee appointed by the Prime Minister, of which the Secretary and spokesperson is Dr. Paikiyasothi Saravanamuttu, and the report of which recommends Special courts with foreign judges.
  • “Invite OHCHR to establish a full-fledged country presence to monitor the situation of human rights, to advise on the implementation of the recommendations made by the High Commissioner and the Human Rights Council in its resolutions, and to provide technical assistance”

What ‘country presence’ means is to establish here, in this country, probably somewhere along Galle Road, a branch of Zaid’s Office, filled with his officials, to monitor human rights here. In an amusing episode, in 2007, when this was suggested by the then High Commissioner at an on-going session of the Council, after repeated rejections, she was famously asked by the Sri Lankan Ambassador/PR, “Madam High Commissioner, which part of ‘No’ don’t you get?”

What are they going to be doing here, when we have a Human Rights Commission already? Is this what the word ‘strengthening’ in the latest resolution means?

The Office of the UN High Commissioner has a habit of attempting to establish its offices in as many places as it can. In its annual reports, it reports with pride the number of its offices that has been established around the globe as a key performance indicator. Unless it is absolutely necessary, I never understood why the Office thought that this was the best way forward in promoting human rights. The majority of the Council was of the view that local mechanisms were the only sustainable guarantee of protecting human rights and technical assistance to establish those was preferable to the Office planting itself in their countries.

Another recommendation of the High Commissioner with regard to Sri Lanka was

  • “Accede to the additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions, and to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court…” This is self-explanatory. We have so far resisted this, as has the US of A.
  • “Enact legislation to criminalize war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and enforced disappearances without statutes of limitation, and enact modes of criminal liability, in particular command or superior responsibility.” Aha! “Command or Superior Responsibility”. Now this is where the Rajapaksas come in. In one fell swoop, those who are so inclined can eliminate their electoral and political rivals. Lovely.

The UN High Commissioner also recommends that we:

  • “Adopt legislation establishing a hybrid court, which should include international judges, defence lawyers, prosecutors and investigators.” Of course the Government’s leaders and ministers say there will not be any hybrid courts. But why then co-sponsor a resolution which specifically asks Zaid to monitor and report on the progress of these very recommendations which include hybrid courts and international judges?

There are other gems. But I shall quote just one more of his recommendations to the members of the United Nations:

  • “Wherever possible, in particular under universal jurisdiction, investigate and prosecute those allegedly responsible for such violations as torture, enforced disappearance, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

The doctrine of Universal Jurisdiction enables any country to take into custody a national of any other country for an alleged crime, even if they are in the transit lounge of an airport.

There have been very good articles informing the public on the latest Geneva resolution as well as the previous one that the Government of Sri Lanka thought was in its best interest to co-sponsor. I just wanted to highlight a few more of their hidden delights.

The 2017 resolution requests the High Commissioner to assess our progress on his recommendations and to report to the Council at its 37th session. That would be next March (2018) at the high level segment of the Human Rights Council.

I seriously think that it’s time that the highest level segment of this “Unity government” takes another look at these resolutions and do what can be done to reverse the damage and contain the fall out.

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Latest comments

  • 3


    Your line…..
    [Prince] Zaid al Hussain the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should play a strengthened role in Srilanka. He might as well sit in the Cabinet!……
    You mean our cabinet of Ministers?
    It would be Infra dig for the Prince!

    • 20

      Hey lady,

      So, you are at it too? I thought it was just your husband! Anyway more the merrier.

      Let’s cut the crap and face the truth. SL government killed a lot of Tamils. SL government killed a lot of Sinhalese. As a “moral-being” (which, I am sure, as your illustrious mother’s daughter, you want to be! :)) what is important; the stark-truth or some elaborate scheme to protect the perpetrators? At your age the choice should be simple; isn’t it? Did you two ever discuss, why it isn’t?

      Gotta hand it to the Yahapalanaya-Boys, they are doing an excellent/better job of leading Geneva/UNCRH up the garden path than the Rajapakse-boys could ever even dream of.

      Watch and learn, Sirisena/Ranil’s friendly-deceptions will always triumph over Rajapakse-boys’ bellicose-deceptions.

      No one will ever get any justice. Lessons are as old as human history.

  • 12

    You don’t look or sound like you need free laptop,car loan,Sil redi, or roofing sheets?
    You forget the uneducated uncultured ones said this was a war without civilian casualties?
    Channel 4 videos from our soldiers phones blew this out of the water?

  • 9

    A ‘hybrid court’ has to hear any War Crimes evidence.
    No two words about it.
    The Minister, President and Prime Minister are dependent on the armed forces for their political survival and hence ignore the oppressive regime in the north and east.
    War Crimes? When? Where? By Whom?

    • 5

      Sure, we should establish hybrid courts and tell them that they should first investigate war crimes committed by LTTE because their war crimes are much more serious and easier to investigate e.g. killing thousands of civilians using suicide bombers, using child soldiers.

  • 12

    All this is ecause of marinade greediness of power, gota,s brutal methods of unlawful and illegal war on civilians and journalist during and after the war,, corrupted Basil’s action and lies of advisors of people like Dayan and gl Petrie.

  • 14

    No one believes your ramblings Mrs Dayan Jayatilake… you’ll are both a bunch of racist MR stooges!
    We all know the problem was created by MR making commitments to UN which he went back on. The UN was on the verge of having an international inquiry on Lanka. The unity govt has protected or sovereignty by getting the UN itself to admit that Sri Lanka can handle the matter domestically!
    Enough with your lies!

    • 9

      Sarath go read her article. She has clearly quoted the UN charter. I doubt whether you are able to comprehend what she has so clearly stated simply. IT MUST be in your dreams that you are saying that the unity goverenment has protected the sovereignty of SL. The unity goverenment has a track record of saying one thing and doing something else.

  • 7

    Madame De S J has covered all relevant points.

    However, the lady knows that everyone involved is going through the motions, knowing full well that none of the UN desired outcomes will ever see light of day in this blessed land. There is more chance of Martians landing on Horton Plains than there is of a foreign judge taking court on Hulftsdorp Hill.

    We want UN membership, yet we delight in thumbing our sun burnt noses at the strictures of membership.

    Why do we persist with this charade? This annual ritual of humiliation. We are on our way to becoming the ‘Israel of the East’ – couldn’t care a brass monkeys for the regular insults thrown our way.
    Better to leave the circus, I say.

  • 16


    Sri Lanka did not get itself trapped in Geneva last week. It got trapped years ago in 2009/10, on the day that the notorious goon stood in front of the forum and declared “zero civilian casualties.”

    The goon then continued to chest-thump for years his “single handed” victory. If that indeed was a victory, rather than a mere postponement of justice, why do you think Sri Lanka has been dragged down in mud by it’s underpants practically every year since then, and not just after the new regime as you try to stealthily palm off the responsibility! One can run but can’t hide.

    And what did the goon get for his servitude to Raja – got called out by the Raja himself at Al Jazeera as prostituting for an NGO?

    Shameless and conscienceless to the core!

  • 6

    The trap was set up in Lanka! The whole world fell for it.

    The “known devil” knew that losing the election was the way out to deflect UNHCR. He knew that the “unknown devils” will not be able to even touch the prevailing corruption and nepotism. The new regime has been pulped into accepting that soldiers will not be prosecuted. This is possible if and only if those at the top are exonerated. So the groundwork is set to stage a comeback and laugh all the way to the bank. Those who crossed over will re-cross and enjoy another duty free limousine. Lankans will continue he hard work in the Middle East and provide the fuel.

  • 3

    Mother of democracy (UK) and Mother crab (Theresa May) has told that she will not allow her armed forces to be investigated. If the mother crab is walking sideways, why should the baby crabs walk straight. Follow the mother crab!

  • 1

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  • 2

    Whose resolution is 34/1? Isn’t it UNHRC’s? Doesn’t it have authority to appoint a person to follow up on its resolution? Which provision or clause is stopping HC from function on the direction of UNHRC?
    Where these logics were hiding when Brother Prince, just an employee, was running the government? When Old Brother Prince was ordering from Ministers to peons, did any Sinhala Buddhist Modaya turn around and told “Sir, You are only an employee”? Under what logic an ambassador – an equivalent of a high commissioner, advised a government to implement 13A and when it failed retaliated and got fired? Anybody here is in coma?

    Other great dupe is the Universal Jurisdiction. Universal Jurisdiction is about place of the crime. Remember, there is crime committed to the standards of the prosecuting country. . Unless something determined as crime, it doesn’t work. If the First report of OISL was officially released, then those travelling from Lankawe may face a risk of being prosecuted, every businessman and tourist. Still without UJ, countries can impose travel and confiscate properties. Many countries these days have their own law to prosecute others. That is how TGTE filed a case on Old King. Further, it is only Western countries are agreeing for Universal Jurisdiction. When West have saved the war criminal by allowing Lankawe to have 2 more years, somebody dancing with a Kavadi that Universal Jurisdiction going have arrested Lankaweyans getting out the island is the usual “exaggeration comedy” Thero plays.

    West does not need UNHRC to act. It was President Obama’s wish to lock Lankawe in UNHRC. As Ambassador Blake devised the techniques n & put Lankawe into it. Russia took Crimea and sighted a referendum. If India takes over the North-East and conducts a referendum, the current situation is, Tamils will vote.

  • 5

    Any intelligent person should see where this us going. Sirisena & Ranil want to get MR so he won’t be a threat to them They are scared as MR is getting more and more popular. Also you can see Sirisena chumming up to Russia & China, they are the two who can veto a UN security council vote.

  • 4

    Sanja, you mean the kitchen Cabinet In Sri Lanka? Yes, Agreed!

  • 1

    One time Guantanamo, then Brother Prince, then Wijeyadasa. If one know what is analysis, they know to compare and contrast between politicians.

    Wijeyadasa have done already more than library burning even in south. Still time to correct from Avant Gardes. Hopefully may not follow Richard.P rowdiness and face the same fate.

  • 5

    The West is using democracy and human rights to undermine Sri Lanka with the help of our leaders. Our real enemies are among us; they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Our leaders won’t acknowledge smart Sri Lankans. They become curse to this country when they become leaders. They merely focus on building their own wealth.

    The educated fools laughed at me when I gave a speech for the Vice Chancellor position at Colombo University. They laughed at me; because, I had chosen my own research and materials to educate myself and others. They laughed at my initiatives instead of rewarding me. They laughed at my 10,000 hours of reading, instead of learning from my knowledge. They laughed at my sacrifices, instead of following my foot path. The educated fools who have been fighting since 1948 think that they are wise; because they done their researches under someone else’s guidance and thinking.

    I have done two researches.

    My First Research Paper: “What are the stumbling blocks for Asians to prosper as the world’s majority in Asia as well as in the world” I have chosen the thesis, and the research materials; because the billions of Asians are divided, and they don’t have a protocol to unite Asia to move forward. Chinese have their own idea, so do Indians and Japanese. Plus the West won’t offer this kind of thesis to help the Asians to dominate Asia or the world.

    My Second Research Paper: “What made the Western countries so powerful, and what it takes them to keep their power” I have chosen the thesis, and the research materials; because the Western countries won’t offer this kind of thesis to tell the world how they have been ruling the world, and how they are intend to carry-on to rule the world.

  • 3


    Great! Your analysis is correct and enlightening. Your fearless and straightforward presentation is highly appreciated.

    You hit the point; so hard enough to confuse and make mad the LTTE (brutal terrorist) sympathizes to come out with ridiculous and baseless counter-arguments. These culprits do noting for the ordinary Tamils in Sri Lnaka, who are still suffering by the brutality of LTTE.

    The reality is Sri Lankan Forces saved Tamils from LTTE. Tamils-Sinhalese and other communities will soon unite to defeat the cursing acts of separatism of these culprits – the heirs of LTTE.

    • 2


      “You hit the point; so hard enough to confuse and make mad the LTTE (brutal terrorist) sympathizes to come out with ridiculous and baseless counter-arguments.”

      What is Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka’s point if there is one?

      By any chance you are a friend of Wimal Sangili Karuppan Weerawansa who is trying your best to support Dayan’s spouse.

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