UNHRC Resolutions on Sri Lanka – 27 May 2009 / 2-11/1
Let us look at how a country that weathered 30 years of terrorism ended that terrorism. How a country after suffering failed formulas of the UN brought peace to the people carrying out a military operation alongside the world’s largest humanitarian rescue operation. How that country became the only nation in the world to eliminate the ground force of an internationally proscribed terrorist movement. How that country ended up getting bricks instead of bouquets for ending terror & delivering peace. Let us go through all of the resolutions brought before the UNHRC and determine what went wrong, by whom and why.
Titled: Assistance to Sri Lanka in the promotion & protection of human rights
The UN Human Rights Council
WELCOMED efforts of the State Members of the United Nations in the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and reaffirming the obligations of States to respect human rights law and international humanitarian law while countering terrorism,
- conclusion of hostilities and the liberation by the Government of Sri Lanka of tens of thousands of its citizens that were kept by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam against their will as hostages, as well as the efforts by the Government to ensure the safety and security of all Sri Lankansand to bring permanent peace to the country,
- recent reassurance given by the President of Sri Lanka that he does not regard a military solution as a final solution, as well as his commitment to a political solution with implementation of the thirteenth amendmentto bring about lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka,
- successful rehabilitation of reintegration of former child soldiersafter the conflict ended in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka,
- respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Sri Lanka and its sovereign rights to protect its citizens and to combat terrorism,
- commitment to promote international cooperation, as set forth in the Charter, in particular Article 1, paragraph 3, as well as relevant provisions of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights on 25 June 1993 for enhancing genuine cooperation among Member States in the field of human rights,
- all attacks that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam launched on the civilian population and its practice of using civilians as human shields,
- promotion and protection of human rights should be based on the principle of cooperation and genuine dialogue and aimed at strengthening the capacity of Member States to comply with their human rights obligations for the benefit of all human beings,
- on conclusion of hostilities, the priority in terms of human rights remains the provision of assistance to ensure the relief and rehabilitation of persons affected by the conflict, including internally displaced persons, as well as the reconstruction of the country’s economy and infrastructure,
- provision of basic humanitarian assistance, in particular, safe drinking water, sanitation, food and medical and health-care services to the internally displaced persons by the Government of Sri Lanka with the assistance of United Nations agencies,
- the recent announcement by the Government of Sri Lanka of the proposal to safely resettle the bulk of internally displaced persons within six months,
- continued engagement of the Government of Sri Lanka in regularly and transparently briefing and updating the Council on the human rights situation on the ground and the measures taken in that regard
12 points were issued by the UNHRC
- COMMENDINGmeasures by GoSL on urgent needs of IDPs
- ACKNOWLEDGED commitment of GoSL to provide access as appropriate to international humanitarian agencies to ensure humanitarian assistance to IDPs
- ENCOURAGED GoSL to continue to pursue existing cooperation with relevant UN organizations to provide basic humanitarian assistance – safe drinking water, sanitation, food, medical & health-care services for IDPs.
- ENCOURAGEDGoSL to continue its efforts on disarmament, demobilization & rehabilitation of former child soldiers, recruited by non-State armed actors.
- WELCOMEDcontinued commitment of SL for the promotion & protection of human rights & to uphold human rights obligations & norms of international human rights law
- WELCOMEDannouncement of proposal to safely resettle bulk of IDPs within 6 months
- WELCOMED continued cooperation between GoSL & relevant UN agencies & other humanitarian organizations for humanitarian assistance
- WELCOMEDrecent visits by Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs & Representative of SG on human rights of IDPs
- WELCOMEDvisit of UNSG at invitation of President of SL & endorses joint communique issued at conclusion of the visit
- WELCOMEDresolve of SL Authorities to begin broader dialogue with all parties to enhance process of political settlement & bring about lasting peace & development in Sri Lanka based on consensus among & respect for the rights of all ethnic & religious groups
- URGED GoSLto ensure no discrimination against ethnic minorities to enjoy human rights.
- URGEDinternational communityto cooperate with the GoSL in the reconstruction efforts including official development assistance, helping SL fight poverty & underdevelopment & ensure promotion & protection of human rights, including economic, social & cultural rights.
Signed on 27 May 2009 – 8 days after end of LTTE, 4 days after departure of UNSG from Sri Lanka.
The Resolutions was passed with 29 countries in favor / 12 against and 6 abstentions.
In favour:China, Cuba, India, Russian Federation, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Uruguay, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Brazil,Angola, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Djibouti, Egypt, Ghana, Jordan, Madagascar, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia;
Against:Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland;
Abstaining:Argentina, Gabon, Japan, Mauritius, Republic of Korea, Ukraine.
In May 2009, UNHRC passed a resolution endorsed by 29 countries commending Sri Lanka. That resolution also highlighted the principle of non-interference in domestic jurisdiction of States. It welcomed the conclusion of hostilities and acknowledged that the Sri Lanka’s citizens kept as hostages were liberated from the LTTE.
Although the principle of non-interference in domestic jurisdiction of States was mentioned & UNHRC reaffirmed that it respected Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, territorial integrity & independence & right to protect its citizens & combat terrorism, it was violated with the insertion requiring Sri Lanka to commit to the implementation of the 13a. Everyone should know that the 13a implemented in 1987 saw no peace and inspite of 36 of the 37 subjects devolved to the provinces except land & police powers, 13a was not a solution provider.
What was important in the 27 May 2009 resolution was that the UNHRC acknowledged the humanitarian assistance given to the IDPs which became one of the key allegations in successive resolutions against Sri Lanka. Several times it was mentioned that Sri Lanka was attending to needs of the IDPs as well as providing as appropriate access to international aid agencies & cooperating with them.
Another noteworthy point was the UNHRC condemning the attacks by LTTE as well as the use of civilians as human shields. There was no line of foul play by the Sri Lanka Armed Forces mentioned even in passing.
Equally important in the 27 May 2009 resolution was UNHRC acknowledging that the GoSL was “regularly and transparently briefing and updating the Council”. This was another allegation unfairly made against Sri Lanka later on by the same UNHRC.
The mention of the controversial joint statement by UNSG and Sri Lanka’s President was also included, though it must be clearly stated that the joint statement made no reference to Sri Lanka initiating any investigation.
Where Sri Lanka somehow got trapped in wording was the lines that claimed GoSL was to begin a broader dialogue for a political settlement. This was how UNHRC trapped Sri Lanka.
What needed to be clearly stated was that Sri Lanka was the victim of a non-international armed conflict by non-state actors who killed all communities living in Sri Lanka and there was no requirement for any such political dialogue or settlement with terrorists. Would US or NATO engage in a political dialogue with Al Qaeda/ISIS or Boku Haram?
The other subtly included line was that UNHRC urged GoSL to ensure ‘no discrimination against ethnic minorities’ this was an affront to any majority as it immediately raises the question if every government elected to power in any country looks after only the majority while discriminating the minorities. This was a very unfair and inappropriate insinuation as no majority has ever had a honky dory time just because they were the majority.
Thus, while the 27 May 2009 resolution brought to the international podium some important points, it trapped Sri Lanka with mention of 13a political settlement which was a violation of the very UN Charter UNHRC claims to uphold.
The above resolution was signed on 27 May 2009 – 8 days after end of LTTE, 4 days after departure of UNSG from Sri Lanka.
The Resolutions was passed with 29 countries in favor / 12 against and 6 abstentions.
From the Asian continent Japan, Mauritius and South Korea abstained from voting
From the European continent Ukraine abstained, while Bosnia & Herzegovina, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, UK and Northern Irelandvoted against.
Sri Lanka is thankful to the countries that voted in favor led by China, Cuba, Russian Federation, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Uruguay, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Brazil,Angola, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Djibouti, Egypt, Ghana, Jordan, Madagascar, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia;
Shenali D Waduge