In a significant shift from the position it adopted in the past at the UNHRC over its human rights record, Sri Lanka announced its co-sponsorship of the new US-sponsored resolution titled ‘Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rrights in Sri Lanka’.
The resolution A/HRC/30/L.2 was tabled at the UNHRC several hours behind the scheduled time, following lengthy negotiations between the Sri Lankan delegation and the ‘Core Group’ sponsors -- which includes delegations from US, Britain, Montenegro and Macedonia – to reach a consensus on the language of the draft resolution over which objections were raised by the SL delegation including Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinghe, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva.
The tabled resolution contains several amendments when compared with its initial draft but remains firm in its call for an international role in the domestic mechanism that would be set up to address accountability issues.
The document that contains 20 Operative paragraphs and 23 preambular paragraphs, has affirmed the need to create independent judicial and prosecutorial institutions and has noted the ‘importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the Special Counsel’s office, of the Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, and authorized prosecutors and investigators’.
It has recognized and welcomed the four-tiered accountability mechanism unveiled by Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera on the opening day of ongoing 30th UNHRC session, which seeks to address victim grievances focused on four aspects including truth-seeking, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence.
The resolution notes that a credible accountability process will preserve the good reputation and credibility of those within the military who have conducted themselves with honour and professionalism and adds that if the proposed mechanisms are implemented effectively, they would ‘help account for serious crimes by all sides and help achieve reconciliation’.
It has also recognised the need for accountability and reconciliation process for the violations and abuses committed by the LTTE as highlighted in the recently released OISL (OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka) report.
The resolution text also notes the importance for the government to expedite the issuance of Certificates of Absence to the families of the missing as a temporary measure of relief, accelerate the land returns to its rightful civilian owners and to implement further efforts to end military involvement in civilian activities. Moreover, it has encouraged the government to introduce effective security sector reforms as part of its transitional justice process.
Meanwhile, the resolution also called upon the OHCHR to continue to monitor Sri Lanka’s progress in implementing the recommendations it has made and other relevant processes linked to reconciliation, accountability, and human rights and has called for the High Commissioner’s Office to present an oral update to the UNHRC at its 32nd session in 2016 as well as a comprehensive report followed by discussion on the implementation of the present resolution at its 34th session scheduled for 2017.
Informal consultations on the US-sponsored draft resolution on Sri Lanka began on Monday. During the meeting, Ambassador Aryasinghe raised objection at the language used in the draft, describing it as ‘repetitive, judgmental and prescriptive’. He also noted that certain terminologies included in the draft is ‘intrusive’ and pointing out that it’s unhelpful in adopting a collaborative approach to reaching a consensus.
The negotiation process momentarily seemed to take up the same tune it adopted during the Rajapaksa regime, when it requested the draft resolution contents to be stripped to bare minimums including the deletion of 14 out of the total 26 operative paragraphs and the omission of paragraph four that calls for the proposed transitional justice process to include ‘independent judicial and prosecutorial institutions led by individuals known for integrity and impartiality’ and to ‘involve international investigators, prosecutors and judges in Sri Lanka’s justice processes’ . However, the U.S. representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Keith Harper remained resolute on reaching a win-win situation as he told media that ‘everything possible’ will be done to ensure a consensus is reached.
The US intention to sponsor a fresh resolution backing a domestic probe in Sri Lanka to address issues of accountability was first announced when US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal visited Sri Lanka. (Lakna Paranamanna)