The 46th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is currently in session in Geneva, with a report on human rights violations in Sri Lanka being discussed and a group of countries, including the United Kingdom, planning to pass another resolution against Sri Lanka.
The group also includes Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro and Malawi.
The group will present a draft resolution on Sri Lanka to the UN Human Rights Council on March 16. 'The Island' recently reported that "Canada and the United Kingdom, its co-sponsoring members, are actively promoting support for the resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva."
It further stated that the Canadian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, David McKinnon, met with the High Commissioner of Bangladesh, Tarek Ariful Islam at the Canadian House (official residence of the High Commissioner of Canada) in Colombo 07, and the UK High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, H.C. Sarah Halton had recently met with South Korean Ambassador Wunjin Jeong.
Bangladesh as well as South Korea are members of the 47-member Human Rights Commission. Meetings between diplomats in these countries are generally rare, The Island added.
But the report, presented by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, notes very different recommendations from the suggestions made by the group of co-sponsors, including targeted sanctions against Sri Lanka's perpetrators of war crimes and violence, their assets and travel bans. She called on member states of the UN Human Rights Council to consider doing so.
Michelle Bachelet's report was recently taken up and 21 countries, including Nicaragua, Eritrea and North Korea, spoke in support of Sri Lanka. Nicaragua, Eritrea and North Korea are also facing resolutions based on them in the Human Rights Council.
Cuba, Venezuela, Indonesia and Pakistan have been among those who have taken a clear stand against resolutions on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in the past as well as this time. But in the past, they have not been able to defeat those proposals.
“The support of 21 countries is not a pleasant reality to face, Azerbaijan speaking on behalf of Sri Lanka in the Council or anywhere else really shows a big difference between perhaps the US speaking in support of Sri Lanka. Failure to recognise this is a failure to calculate the true nature of the problem” Journalist Dharisha Bastians said.
There are various opinions in the country at present and some people say that the resolution of the Human Rights Council could have adverse effects such as the imposition of economic sanctions on the country. But can the Human Rights Council really do that?
Composition of the Human Rights Council:
The Council consists of 47 member states and is elected by direct and secret ballot of the members of the United Nations General Assembly.
The General Assembly considers the role of these candidate states in promoting and protecting human rights, as well as their commitment and voluntary action in this regard.
Council membership is based on equal geographical distribution.
Accordingly, 13 seats are reserved for African countries, 13 seats for Asia-Pacific countries, 8 seats for Latin American and Caribbean countries, 7 seats for Western European and other countries and 6 seats for Eastern European countries.
Relevant countries hold a three-year membership period and are not eligible for re-election immediately after two consecutive terms of membership.
Following the adoption of Resolution 60/251 in March 2006 to create the Human Rights Council, the member states will have the responsibility to uphold the highest human rights standards upon their accession to the Council, in accordance with the criteria emphasized by the States.
The UN Human Rights Council has 47 member states.
As of January 1, 2020, 117 of the 193 UN member states are members of the Human Rights Council. A list of member states from 2006 to 2020 is found below.
Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bolivia, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, El Salvador , France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Magdalen, Latvia , Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Phile, Victory, Republic of Moldova, Republic of Northern Macedonia, Romania, Russian Republic, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Switzerland, Switzerland , United Arab Emirates, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic), Vietnam and Zambia
Powers of the Council:
At the Human Rights Council, no state has the veto power as in the UN Security Council. Resolutions are passed by consensus or by a majority vote. Therefore, it is not correct to say that countries like China and Russia have the "veto power" of the UN Human Rights Council.
The Human Rights Council has no ability to impose sanctions economically or otherwise.
Relevant states are not bound to implement or not implement the resolutions of the UN Human Rights Council. This means that a government is "forced" to comply, but the Council has no direct consequences, sanctions or penalties.
But highlighting the human rights abuses exposed by the council's resolutions could have consequences, such as the imposition of individual bilateral sanctions based on them.
Bachelet's report calls for "targeted sanctions" which implies that the government has the sole discretion to impose sanctions on individuals, not just the country as a whole.
As a result of their involvement in wartime abuses, some military officers are barred from engaging in international travel or trade.
This is a course of action already being followed by some countries.
For example, the United States has already imposed a travel ban on Army Commander General Shavendra Silva and his family members.
Unlike in previous years, the United States, which has now withdrawn from the UNHRC, is seeking to rejoin the UNHRC. They have not yet been given the right to vote.
Therefore, it is doubtful whether the co-sponsors of the resolution on Sri Lanka will still be able to get a majority vote on their resolution, as China, Russia and Pakistan all have the right to vote in the Council and it is significant.
But even if the resolution is defeated by the Council, those countries still have the power to make their own decisions.
(BBC Sinhala Service)