15 August, 2020

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What To Expect At The UNHRC’s Upcoming Session

By Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka –

Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka

The UN Human Rights Council’s first sessions for the year, also known as the ‘High Level Segment’ on account of the participation of high level delegates such as Ministers and even heads of states, is due to commence in a few days, on the 26th of February and will continue until the 23rd of March. It is the 37th regular session of the UNHRC.

It is at this session that the High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein will present an interim report on the implementation of Resolution 30/1, which will be his final report on the subject as he completes his 4-year term this summer. His earlier reports caused controversy because he called on all member states of the UN to apply ‘universal jurisdiction’ to those Sri Lankans who are accused of war crimes. This mechanism enables arrest and prosecution in other countries. The final report is to be presented at the 40th session in March 2019.

It is also at this upcoming session that the final report on Sri Lanka’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) which took place last year will be officially adopted. The report includes recommendations made by other countries for the improvement of human rights in Sri Lanka as well as voluntary commitments made by Sri Lanka. One of those voluntary commitments by Sri Lanka includes a controversial promise to establish a judicial mechanism with special counsel:  “Fulfil commitments contained in Human Rights Council resolution 30/1 towards the operationalization of the Office on Missing Persons, and the establishment of a truth seeking commission, an office for reparations, and a judicial mechanism with a special counsel.”

Apart from these reports, UN accredited NGOs present their own reports on their evaluation of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka at every session. At this 37th session, there are several NGO reports containing serious allegations which could be harmful to Sri Lanka if they are not countered with due diligence. NGOs can be influential in creating opinion and have made successful interventions at the Council.

One of the reports deals with Sri Lankan volunteers for UN Peacekeeping Operations. It has already been reported in the Sri Lankan media that the appointment of Lt. Col. Wasantha Kumara Hewage who was due to head the 12th Force Protection Company (FPC) for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), has been halted in the face of complaints that he was unsuitable for the task. An NGO report submitted to the 37th session of the UNHRC reiterates this objection on the basis that he was a participant in the final stages of Sri Lanka’s war against the terrorist Tigers that ended in May 2009!

Incredibly, this report also claims that his Facebook post supportive of Brigadier Priyanka Fernando disqualifies him further: “Furthermore, Lt. Col. Hewage has on his Facebook page expressed support for the Sri Lankan defence attaché in London, Brigadier Priyanka Fernando, after he thrice made throat-slitting gestures at a crowd of peaceful Tamil protestors on 4 February 2018, causing a huge controversy. Tamil groups, UP parliamentarians and the main opposition party in Sri Lanka, the Tamil National Alliance, have all called for the attaché to be expelled for his offensive and intimidating behaviour unfitting for a diplomat.”

The entire report attempts to propose that any person who took part in that war of national reunification and liberation from terrorism, should be automatically disqualified from being part of the UN peacekeeping operations. The report is titled ‘STOP DEPLOYMENT OF UN PEACEKEEPER WITH FRONTLINE COMBAT EXPERIENCE IN SRI LANKA’S 2009 WAR’.

The report assumes that the reasons should be self-evident: “I don’t need to tell you that the UN in several reports since 2011, documented and reported on the extensive violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law perpetrated by the Sri Lankan security forces during the final phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka. These violations involved repeated targeted attacks on civilian objects, such as hospitals and food queues, denial of food and medicine to civilians, as well as extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearance by the military, which met the threshold for war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

It is incumbent on the government via its Foreign Ministry to ensure that misinformation spread right into the heart of UN bodies such as the UNHRC is effectively countered, wherever it comes from.

Another report submitted at this session titled “The Failure of the Government of Sri Lanka to Implement Its Commitments on Accountability in Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1”, says that there areongoing human rights violations against the Tamil and Muslim communities” apart from “torture, sexual and gender-based violence, human smuggling and trafficking, economic strangulation” etc by the armed forces :

“In addition to the lack of progress on reconciliation and transitional justice, the Government has not prevented ongoing human rights violations against the Tamil and Muslim communities as well as journalists, human rights defenders and political dissidents. The counter-terrorism apparatus remains in place, undiminished and unreformed, albeit less visible under the current government. Abductions, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, illegal land appropriation, state-sponsored population transfers that change the demography of Tamil areas, religious and cultural intolerance, language and economic discrimination, political exclusion and gerrymandering, appropriation of timber, agricultural land, minerals and resources of the sea under the protection of the state8 are all continuing under the current government.”

“These abuses are exacerbated by the presence of one of the highest concentrations of military forces in the world by one of the largest militaries (per capita) in Asia, most of whom remain deployed in the Tamil and Muslim areas in the North-East. The nearly 100% Sinhalese security forces have committed torture, sexual and gender-based violence, human smuggling and trafficking, economic strangulation, monetary extortion and surveillance of all civilian activities. These abuses against the Tamil population, which have taken place in the aftermath of mass atrocities, are aimed at the destruction of the Tamil community within our own ‘area of historical habitation’ on the island.”

This report represents the views of the “British Tamils Forum (BTF), The United States Political Action Council (USTPAC), NGOs without consultative status” according to their statement, although it is submitted under the name of Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation.

Yet another report titled “Sri Lanka: Civilian Land under Military Occupation” alleges that: “… Although military checkpoints have been reduced over recent years, the armed forces remain heavily involved in public life. In this context, surveillance, harassment and intimidation of civil society, human rights activists, NGO workers and journalists are still widespread…Since the end of the war, the military has established itself as a major player in the local economy. Its forces are involved in a range of commercial activities, such as agriculture, catering and tourism. These economic activities by the military deprive the local population of important sources of income. Particularly in farming, they put the security forces in direct competition with the local population for scarce resources, such as water, while it is also reported that the military sells its agricultural products below the usual market price. Local farmers cannot compete with such prices.”

The government should respond seriously to these allegations and not simply ignore them, since these reports are now lodged at the UN. Their responses should also be made available widely if Sri Lanka’s image is not to be tarnished at the hands of those who are determined to discredit Sri Lanka’s victorious war against terrorism. It is concerning that there are attempts to show that serious human rights violations are an on-going, 9 years after the war has ended. Sri Lanka’s High Level delegation to the 37th session of the Human Rights Council has its work cut out.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    2

    Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka – analysis yet again.
    Hi Sanja – will they discuss the throat cutting gesture of Brigadier Priyanka Fernandoand ?

    • 2
      1

      As long as this government is in power, nothing will happen. These efforts preparing a detail account of non conforming to agreed items will come to zero as the government will be given a reprieve and provided time and space to dilly dally on these matters. However if and when MR comes to power, noose will be tightened. This is the reality that extremists on both sides are unable to comprehend.

  • 3
    3

    First response is to suggest that we play our trump card – send our thoroughly modern Brigadier Priyanka to Geneva and he with one sweet and smooth drawing of his rich straight fore finger across his glistening throat will leave our accusers shaken and running for cover even begging forgiveness. The our brave Brigadier will then point to the ‘flag’ on his strong left arm and render them all cowering.

    • 3
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      Sanja de S J

      Nice try, but the truth is that people are beginning to see through the devious machinations of our politicians. Particularly those passionate about defending our victorious forces, our national heroes. The truth is that the rogues and racist thugs within our forces waited for the opportunity, and it did come when the Tiger was cornered. The visceral blood-thirsty among our forces then took their chances. All the evidence is out there. But NONE of leaders will commit political suicide by coming out for an inquiry. So the only question that remains is, for how long can we go defending the indefensible?

      • 4
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        Spring Koha

        I am sorry to remind you that you are missing the point.
        Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka wants the government to send them (Dayan and Sanja) to Geneva to make the case for complete absolution of War crimes and crime against humanity or find Sri Lankan armed forces innocent.

        • 3
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          NV / SK
          To put it simply: Parasites looking for a host.

          • 4
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            Burt

            Thanks for your good description with fewer words.
            You know I didn’t want to insult parasites.

  • 4
    1

    Sanja,

    You state “there are several NGO reports containing serious allegations which could be harmful to Sri Lanka if they are not countered with due diligence.”

    Do you think the “claim of zero civilian casualty” type countering work?

    Would you know if Dayan conducted due diligence prior to making that declaration in 2010?

    • 1
      1

      Kumar R

      Dr D J got in early and capitalised on the initial euphoria surrounding that news that the Tigers had been emasculated. Relief all-around and much back slapping. Then the evidence piled up that all was not well and that amongst the heroes were scoundrels and racist thugs who had committed despicable war crimes that sullied the result. When the brown stuff hit the fan, our politicians (ever eager to show their patriotic side to the gullible masses – bless them!) went into denial and came out with all sorts of fancy rebuffs to defend the indefensible.

      In the event, the Great Liberator relieved Dr D J from the messy business of having to defend his early enthusiasm. So, the verbose doctor came home with his trousers on – Dr D J owes MaRa one. Or is their someone else in the shadows who was not a keen fan of Dr D J but had the ear of the Great Liberator?

  • 0
    1

    ”An NGO report submitted to the 37th session of the UNHRC reiterates this objection on the basis that he was a participant in the final stages of Sri Lanka’s war against the terrorist Tigers that ended in May 2009!
    ………………
    ……………..
    It is incumbent on the government via its Foreign Ministry to ensure that misinformation spread right into the heart of UN bodies such as the UNHRC is effectively countered, wherever it comes from.

    We need not to look at picture or the text to know who the owner is. We go beyond to those attributes to decide that from whom it is coming.

    Last time when World Greatest Liar Mangala went to Peer Review, he faced stumbling because many at UN and UNHRC had come to know his stories. So Appe Aanduwa called him back and sent Harsha. That had caused Mangala his job. But the Master Dodger Harsha took 230 recommendations from members and added another 12 as he would like to have added to that long list, gave it back to them and advised UN to make sure that list will not vanishing in the UN thin air. Harsha did know those are only recommendations and so he happily added as much as he can. Lankawe need not to implement them. Even if has to do so by any obligation, it will not either. By the smart act of Harsha, he is going to a full ministry, Minister Position.

    Thero is saying the MFA has to counter these. But he did not counter and lost his job. Now he is advising to Harsha who even has got promotion.

    Aney pawum thamabi.

  • 0
    1

    Kumar R

    Dr D J got in early and capitalised on the initial euphoria surrounding the news that the Tigers had been emasculated. Relief all-around and much back slapping. Then the evidence piled up that all was not well and that amongst the heroes were scoundrels and racist thugs who had committed despicable war crimes that sullied the result. When the brown stuff hit the fan, our politicians (ever eager to show their patriotic side to the gullible masses – bless them!) went into denial and came out with all sorts of fancy rebuffs to defend the indefensible. Then the calls came in for a stewards enquiry.

    In the event, the Great Liberator relieved Dr D J from the messy business of having to defend his early enthusiasm. So, the verbose doctor came home with his trousers on – Dr D J owes MaRa one. Or is their someone else in the shadows who was not a keen fan of Dr D J but had the ear of the Great Liberator?

  • 0
    0

    Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka
    The current UNHR High Commissioner Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad from Jordan was appointed on 1 September 2014.
    The previous Commissioner was Dr. Navanethem Pillay from South Africa ( from 1 September 2008 – 31 August 2014).
    Pillay succeeded Louise Arbour of Canada (2004–2008)
    Earlier Mary Robinson of Ireland (1997-2002)
    The four felt that there were human rights violations in SL. Is this not utter rubbish?
    .
    The good news is Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad will NOT seek a second term.
    Why not nominate Dayan Jayatilleka for the position? A bit of lobbying may be needed but we have Lord Naseby – do we not?

    • 5
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      K.Pillai

      Instead of Dayan why not appoint good old lord Naseby for the job. A white lord can do a better job than our own brown sahib, so the people think.

      Dayan if desperate can be offered a job as good old lord Naseby’s Valet.

      • 1
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        NV.

        DJ and Sanja are they related! Then what about Rajiva .

        • 0
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          It’s a ‘threesome’ !

  • 0
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    According to the writer, all negative things that are said about the Sri Lankan Government and the Sri Lankan security forces are nothing more than ALLEGATIONS and MISINFORMATION, which do not contain a shred of truth. I think Sanja has been writing this while inhaling Ganja (except where she has quoted verbatim).

  • 0
    0

    We should ask for a high level training program from USA on how not to abuse civilians.

    Then send the same judges who presided over America’s war crimes.

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