Several countries including Russia and China criticised the report compiled by UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay, during the interactive dialogue held at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva yesterday while a majority of countries including the US, UK and France commended the document and called on all countries to support the adoption of the resolution against Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka received strong backing from Russia, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Venezuela, Belarus and Zimbabwe, which criticised the report submitted by Pillay based on her fact-finding mission to Sri Lanka last August, as ‘imbalanced’ and one that ‘exceeded the mandate granted by resolution 22/1’.
Speaking during the interactive dialogue, representatives from Russia said they could not agree with the contents of the report as it exceed Pillay’s mandate and interfered with the domestic affairs of Sri Lanka. They went on to state that the absence of ‘explosions or civilian deaths’ for the past five years should be recognised, adding that, “Human rights should not be used as a means of settling political goals or gaining geopolitical advantage.”
China too criticised the report as one that had undermined the basis of international cooperation on human rights. “We support Sri Lanka to defend its national independent sovereignty,” the speaker representing China said, while calling on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to strictly follow its granted mandate.
“The report does not acknowledge the many achievements by Sri Lanka in reaching towards reconciliation and reflects the imbalance in verifying human rights issues in countries of the South,” the Cuban speaker said in his comments during the interactive session, and added that the proposed international investigation would only create a negative impact on Sri Lanka’s reconciliation process.
Meanwhile Pakistan in its statement said, “Sri Lanka should not be penalised for rooting out terrorism from its soil.”
However, the long list of countries that commended Pillay’s report, which included the US, UK, France, the EU, Montenegro, Ireland, Austria, the Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Norway, Canada and Switzerland, while praising the resettlement and development activities carried out by the Government of Sri Lanka in conflict affected zones, repeatedly stressed on the inadequacy of measures taken with respect to restoring reconciliation and promoting accountability.
Concerns were raised over a number of issues, including harassment/ arbitrary detention of human rights activists, restrictions on media freedom, violence against women particularly in conflict affected zones, attacks on minority communities and places of religious worship. Specific mentions of the recent detentions of Ruki Fernando, Fr. Praveen Maheshan and Jeyakumari were mentioned by the US and Germany.
In a strong statement by the US, the speaker expressed deep concern over the recent reports of attacks on minorities including Muslims and Christians and places of religious worship with specific mentions of ‘indiscriminate killings and ‘alleged war crimes’. “We hope Sri Lanka will respond positively to the technical support offered and take measures to fully implement the LLRC recommendations,” the speaker said.
Meanwhile Greece, making a statement representing the EU, highlighted the reference made in Pillay’s report on Sri Lanka’s failure to address human rights violations as “fundamentally a lack of political will,” and called on all counties to support the adoption of the resolution against Sri Lanka.
Montenegro stated that an independent international inquiry, as called for by the US-backed resolution against Sri Lanka, would be beneficial to establishing the truth.
The UK in their statement commented on the references made by Sri Lanka on the link between the recent detentions and regrouping attempts of the LTTE. “Even when taking action to combat terrorism, it has to be done in a way that is in accord with the specific international obligations,” the speaker said.
Apart from these countries, a long list of Non-governmental organizations, including the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch Canada, World Evangelical Alliance, Amnesty International, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism and the International Buddhist Foundation also made comments during the interactive dialogue held yesterday at the 52nd meeting of the 25th session of the UNHRC in Geneva. (Lakna Paranamanna)