The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) has rejected outright the report of the Commissioner of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which calls upon the state to implement its recommendations on human rights.
Presenting the report on the situation of Human Rights in Sri Lanka, the Deputy High Commissioner of the UNHRC Nada Al Nashi urged the authorities to accelerate investigations and prosecutions probing cases of human rights violations, in particular, the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings.
Responding to the UNHRC report, Sri Lanka’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Himalee Subashini Arunatilaka said they “reject the written update, its conclusion, and recommendations”. She also said the GOSL has consistently rejected resolutions 46/1 and 51/1 which called upon the state to set up an ‘Accountability Project’ for human rights violations including enforced disappearances and those who have gone missing during and after the war.
While the UNHRC report endorsed the Government’s proposal for a new truth-seeking mechanism as part of its efforts to promote reconciliation across Sri Lanka in the aftermath of a brutal civil war, the deputy high commissioner emphasized that more needed to be done.
“Fourteen years since the war ended, tens of thousands of victims and their families continue to suffer in agony and grief as they wait for truth, justice, and remedy,” said Ms. Al-Nashif.
“Truth-seeking alone will not be sufficient and it must be accompanied by a clear commitment to accountability, including through an independent ad hoc special court”.
GOSL says the resolutions are intrusive and polarizing and it is an unproductive and unhelpful drain on the resources and went on to add, “Sri Lanka will not cooperate with it”.
The island nation’s ambassador went further to slam the resolution as a “dubious mandate”.
“Many countries have already raised serious concerns on the budgetary implications of this Resolution given its dubious mandate. Sri Lanka has repeatedly pointed out that this is an unproductive and unhelpful drain on the resources of the Council and its Members. For all the reasons stated above, Sri Lanka will not cooperate with it.”
Member states were divided on the update and resolution. Most of the western bloc along with the core group who brought the resolution welcomed the written update of the UNHRC and supported its implementation.
Sri Lanka’s close allies China and Pakistan supported the GOSL stand along with others like the African nation of Burundi, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Cambodia.
While the response of India was elusive its representative told the council, “Progress on commitments are inadequate and we urge Sri Lanka to work meaningfully towards early implementation of its commitments."
India also urged GOSL to hold Provincial Council elections and implement the 13th amendment to ensure a life of respect & dignity of the Tamils.
China said the resolution 51/1 on Sri Lanka doesn’t follow the principle of fairness and objectivity and added, “We firmly support Srilanka in safeguarding national sovereignty, independence, social stability & Promoting economic development”.
Apart from Nations, NGOs, Tamil activists, and Human Rights groups from various countries also presented their views within the allotted time of 90 seconds.
Prominent Tamil lawyer from Mullaitivu V S Thananjayan in his presentation highlighted the continued presence of military in the North and East of Sri Laka. “Since 2009 after the end of the war, Tamils are calling for demilitarization and there is no significant change in the structure of the military” he added.
Stating further in his submission, he said even after 14 years of the war coming to an end the GOSL is focusing more on land grabbing and Sinhala Buddhitisation in the native Tamil homeland. He also informed the council about the construction of a Buddhist Vihara in Kurunthamalai in violation of an order by the Mullaitivu court.
Another Human Rights attorney Swastika Arulingam commented on the inability of the government to investigate the deadly Easter Sunday attacks in April 2019.
“The failure to credibly investigate the Easter Sunday bombings, including recent revelations about the complicity of the State security apparatus, leaves little room for public confidence in domestic mechanisms,” she said in her submission.
Human Rights organization People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL) said Sri Lanka is now on the agenda today for war crimes and crimes against humanity and genocide committed against the Tamil people. Its representative pointed out “Recently discovered mass graves show that the past will haunt victims until there is justice & accountability”.
While the Tamils have already rejected the report stating it does not reflect the views of the war-affected and the reality in the North and East, the GOSL too has rejected the written update saying it does not reflect the actual ground situation in Sri Lanka.