By Ranjith C. Perera –
Most countries when confronted with human right violations in their countries they hide behind the ‘sovereignty’ principle of the UNHRC. Most recent case is the report on human rights violations by the Sri Lankan government. Besides the human rights questions related to 30 year civil war, 2021 preliminary report sent to Sri Lanka, it is reported prominent charges have been raised on the 20th constitutional amendment, military appointments to civil administration etc by the new government that came into power one year ago. According to media reports the government has rejected all the charges on the basis of sovereignty of the country.
Some critics who favour the stand taken by the government say UNHRC has no right to intervene in internal matters of a country on the principle of ‘sovereignty’ of member countries. It is very clear from the view point of the people of Sri Lanka the charges related to recent administrative constitutional amendments, regulations; appointments etc. have violated their human rights. For instance the people enjoyed democratic rights obtained by the Independent Commissions appointed by the Constitutional Council.
The Independent Commissions include among others Judicial Commission, Public Service Commission which has direct impact on the human rights of the people. People could expect justice from the judiciary because members of the judiciary do not have to worry about political victimization as they have the protection of the Judicial Commission. But with the 20th Constitutional Amendment the power of the appointment of judges has been transferred to one person namely the President of the country. Can the people expect an independent judiciary under this circumstance? Is this not a violation of human rights of the common people of the country?
Same situation prevail related to other commissions appointed by the President. The question is who is going to protect the lost rights of the common people? Some might say the parliament is there to protect the rights of people. The only thing opposition could do is to criticize the government within the parliament and question the government on wrong doings. But they will have no impact on the human rights violation of the people.
Those who are supporting the government stand, state that the people have given the mandate for the changes in the election that brought the new government into power. Yes, people in the election criticized some functions of the independent commissions and they expected the new government would do the needful. But we cannot say any right thinking person expected to abolish the appointment of independent commission by the legislature and bringing it totally under the executive. They must have expected if there were any undemocratic practices in the past the new government would take measures to change them. Not totally abolishing the democratic nature of the independent commissions and bringing them under one person.
Now it is a well known secret that this government is controlled by certain business people who supported it in the election. Favoring such people is a common occurrence after elections. But here it seems the situation is worse than any other time. Therefore we could say the ‘sovereignty’ government and its supporters are talking about is not of the people of this country but of their own.
This is not a situation only related to one country but to most of the countries, especially in the countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America regions in the world. Therefore it is high time international organizations such as UN and UNHRC should adopt a more realistic definition to the word ‘sovereignty’. As pointed out above, presently it is very loosely connected to countries in general. But in actual fact it refers to the ruling class of the countries. It would be better if the international community could state very clearly that they are concerned of the violation of human rights of the people in a country by the rulers and if that happens the international organization has every right to intervene and protect the people as they have no other forum to present their problems related to human rights. On that basis the international organizations focus would be of the ‘sovereignty’ of the people or oppressed not of the rulers or oppressors.