A new resolution on Sri Lanka has been adopted at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva last week with the co-sponsorship of Sri Lanka. The resolution provides another two years for Sri Lanka to implement its commitments, thrust upon it by the resolution adopted at the Council in 2015, which also Sri Lanka Co-sponsored.
Main among the commitments- Sri Lanka has to implement under that resolution is to set up a judicial mechanism to probe the violations of international Human Rights and humanitarian laws allegedly by the armed forces and the LTTE.
Geneva or the UNHRC has become an issue for the political parties of the country, especially the two main parties to show the people the vigour of their patriotism and the treachery of their adversaries. However, the strategies they have pursued so far during their respective tenures in respect of the UNHRC have been almost the same in essence.
It was former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had first officially pledged the United Nations to ensure accountability with regard to the Human Rights violations/ war crimes in Sri Lanka in a joint communiqué with the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a week after the end of the war in May 2009.
Then again, a resolution that was initiated by Sri Lanka itself was passed at the UNHRC in the same year, expressing its commitment towards the joint communiqué.
As the country did not take follow-up steps in accordance with the communiqué and the self-initiated resolution, the UN Secretary-General appointed the Darusman Committee in 2010 to advise him on Sri Lanka which presented a damning report in 2011 with an allegation of 40,000 civilian deaths only during the last few months of the war.
When the Darusman committee was about to be appointed President Rajapaksa hurriedly appointed, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) which too recommended in 2011 investigations into the human rights violations allegedly by the armed forces and the LTTE.
When the LLRC report started to gather dust, the UNHRC adopted its first resolution on Sri Lanka in 2012 calling for the implementation of the recommendations of the same report. The Rajapaksa administration rejected the resolution but presented a National Action Plan on accountability issues, complying with the resolution.
A six-member military court was also appointed to investigate the allegations against the Army.
Expressing dissatisfaction over the National Action Plan the UNHRC thrust various other commitments on the country besides the ones handed in by the LLRC, with its second resolution in 2013. The new commitments spoke about the devolution of power as well.
In response to that resolution, President Rajapaksa appointed the Paranagama Commission on Missing Persons, despite the Army tribunal having ruled out any disappearances during the final stage of the war.
When the 2014 UNHRC resolution which called for an international investigation on Human Rights violations /war crimes was passed, the President gave a second mandate to the Paranagama Commission to look into the allegations of Human Rights violations as well.
The current regime co-sponsored the 2015 resolution that required the country to set up a judicial mechanism with foreign judges, among others.
And the leaders of the Government including President Maithripala Sirisena boasted that they protected the armed forces from the allegations of Human Rights violations by pledging to investigate the actions of a few black sheep within the ranks of those forces.
Then they went back on their words and said that they would not allow the participation of foreign judges.
Ludicrously, they again in 2017 prayed for two more years to implement the same 2015 resolution. And this year also the Sri Lankan delegation, while claiming that Sri Lankan law does not allow the participation of foreign judges in the country’s judicial system, co-sponsored the same resolution which required the country to establish a judicial mechanism with foreign judges.
Despite them having rejected or co-sponsored the UNHRC resolutions, the parties ruled the country had repeatedly undertaken ensuring accountability for the controversial incidents that took place during the war but only to drag their feet back home. And the UNHRC has been chasing the country with the documented pledges of Sri Lanka in hand. This is not an issue for the political parties to gain political mileage. They must put their heads together and develop a common strategy to protect the country’s sovereignty and dignity while meting out justice to all communities in the country.