Lanka defiant after vote

The Sri Lankan government remained defiant despite losing a key vote at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

External Affairs Minister G.L Peiris said that most countries which voted with Sri Lanka were acutely conscious of the danger of setting a precedent which enables ad hoc intervention by powerful countries in the internal affairs of other nations.

Cuba, Ecuador, Russia, Thailand, Philippines, Uganda, China, Maldives, Indonesia and Bangladesh were among the countries which rejected the U.S sponsored resolution while Sri Lanka’s biggest neighbor India and the EU were among those who backed the resolution.

Peiris said that with 15 countries voting with Sri Lanka, and 8 countries abstaining, the final result was that 23 countries, out of a total of 47 members of the Human Rights Council, did not support the Resolution, while 24 supported it and so the margin was narrow.

“The most distressing feature of this experience is the obvious reality that voting at the Human Rights Council is now determined not by the merits of a particular issue but by strategic alliances and domestic political issues in other countries which have nothing to do with the subject matter of a Resolution or the best interests of the country to which the Resolution relates.  This is a cynical negation of the purposes for which the Human Rights Council was established,” he said in a statement.

The minister further said that as far as Sri Lanka is concerned, its policy in respect of all matters will continue to be guided by the vital interests and wellbeing of the people of the country and that this cannot yield place to any other consideration.

Meanwhile Human Rights Watch said that the United Nations Human Rights Council’s adoption of a resolution on Sri Lanka demonstrates strong international support for accountability for abuses committed in Sri Lanka’s armed conflict.

“The Human Rights Council’s vote demonstrates broad international dissatisfaction with Sri Lanka’s accountability efforts in the three years since the end of the war,” said Juliette De Rivero, advocacy director at Human Rights Watch in Geneva.  “Many countries have recognized that this resolution is an important first step toward serious action to investigate the many abuses by both sides during the conflict.”

The resolution calls upon the Sri Lankan government to fulfill its legal obligations toward justice and accountability, and to expeditiously provide a comprehensive action plan to implement the recommendations of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and also to address alleged violations of international law. It also encourages the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN human rights envoys to assist Sri Lanka in implementing these steps.

“In its failed efforts to block the council resolution, the Sri Lankan government saw fit to put its own citizens at risk through vicious personal attacks on rights advocates,” De Rivero said. “It’s a credit to Human Rights Council members that they saw through the government’s scare tactics to avoid accountability.” (Colombo Gazette)