US-UK sponsored resolution HRC#25 of March 24, 2014
Posted on March 26th, 2014

Mahinda Gunasekera Toronto, Canada

The Members of the UNHRC – 2014
Geneva

Dear Heads of Missions to the UNHRC,

Re:  US/UK sponsored resolution HRC#25 of March 24, 2014 relating to Sri Lanka

It is indeed regrettable that the USA and UK thought it fit to bring up a resolution for the third successive year relating to Sri Lanka’s ongoing healing and reconciliation following a three decade long conflict with the internationally designated terrorist movement called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), aka Tamil Tigers, which was decisively ended with the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, especially when much has been achieved in the vital areas of resettlement of displaced civilians, rehabilitation of former Tamil Tiger combatants and wide ranging improvements to infrastructure has been carried out in the conflict affected areas.  The resolution acknowledges Sri Lanka’s achievements in many areas which by far exceeds the attainments of other countries in similar post-conflict situations.  Most of the clauses of the resolution are redundant because Sri Lanka is already taking steps in accordance with a domestic process following the extensive hearings conducted by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and publication of its report in July 2012, to fully implement the Commission’s recommendations numbering 285 through a National Plan of Action with timelines and named agencies entrusted with the process of accomplishing the set goals.  Instead of an externally imposed process, Sri Lanka has adopted her own home grown system based on restorative justice as opposed to retributive justice to achieve healing, national reconciliation, ensure accountability and justice in accordance with the laws of the land which recognizes international human rights laws to which Sri Lanka is a signatory.

With regard to matters covered by clause 22, Sri Lanka is currently in consultation with the South African authorities to study their Truth and Reconciliation Commission and other such judicial processes to determine their applicability to the Sri Lankan situation and adopt what may be suitable for Sri Lanka.  South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) held public sessions from 1996 to 1998, and concluded its work in 2004 taking a total of 8 years.   According to Alex Boraine, South Africa’s TRC was designed to be independent””from the presidency, the government and the African National Congress, which had become the ruling party. It was an investigative body, with powers of search and seizure, but it did not conduct trials and it did not supplant the criminal justice process. The work of the Commission was subject to judicial review and many of its actions and decisions were challenged in the courts. The Commission failed to achieve much in the area of reparations for victims, but its final report articulated the responsibility of both the state and the private sector to work toward economic justice. As Machel notes, “South African society is violent, intolerant, accusatory and angry because it has failed to address the emotional mutilation wrought by apartheid.”  Gracha Machel pointed out that South Africa had still not healed after the end of aparthied and participation in the TRC. Today, whites control 4/5ths of the farms and 95 % of industry.   A defacto segregation lingers as most of the poor blacks find themselves confined to slums.

Clause 23- the responsibility of States to comply with their relevant obligations to prosecute those responsible for gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law constituting crimes under international law, with a view to end impunity.  This is nothing new, and all states subscribe to these principles, and Sri Lanka is no exception.

Clause 25 deals with a special role for the High Commissioner based on her oral and written reports on Sri Lanka’s progress, including her undertaking a comprehensive independent investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka, during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and establish the facts and circumstances of such alleged violations and of the crimes perpetrated with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability,  The High Commissioner who was invited to visit Sri Lanka delayed to come by nearly two years and after a brief stay reaches various arbitrary conclusions based on her casual meetings with a few agitators and partisan groups that were supportive of the separatist movement spearheaded by the Tamil Tigers who engaged in all forms of violence including suicide terrorism without conclusive proof, citing a few incidents of intolerant behaviour that was being duly dealt with by the authorities, which she blows completely out of proportion painting a picture of widespread dissension, repression, and division within the society.  She being a member of the Indian Tamil community having linguistic, cultural and emotional links to one party of the conflict, i.e. the Tamil Tiger separatist terrorists who were supported by members of her own Tamil community in South Africa with funds and even volunteers undergoing military camps which were dismantled by President Nelson Mandela at the request of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister, the late Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar.  The High Commissioner found fault with Sri Lanka even one week after the defeat of the Tamil Tigers on May 26, 2009, without any evidence based on propaganda carried out by the defeated LTTE terrorists which she apparently accepted without proper scrutiny.  Considering her links to one of the parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka, it was incumbent on her to recuse herself from conducting investigations and making scathing reports against Sri Lanka.  Most Sri Lankans do not have confidence in the High Commissioner as she has demonstrated that she is not able to make inquiries and reach impartial decisions, and her continued role in dealing with Sri Lanka would even affect the credibility of her office and the Human Rights Council. 

Sri Lanka is an independent sovereign country which has been a member of the united nations since 1955 where she has made valuable contributions in the areas covering disarmament, law of the sea, international terrorism, peacekeeping, sustainable development through UNCTAD , and much more.  She has at all times briefed the UNHRC members of the issues affecting human rights and international humanitarian laws and corrective steps undertaken by her in terms of the established mechanism referred to as the Universal Periodic Mechanism, ruling out any justification for a country specific resolution. Sri Lanka has the capacity to look into her internal matters in keeping with a domestic process designed by independent local experts drawn from all of her constituent communities.  Any externally imposed inquiry will only hinder the ongoing healing and reconciliation taking place within the country. Such an inquiry would only give an impetus to members of the Tamil diaspora mainly domiciled in western countries that funded terrorism in Sri Lanka, who are still engaged in distorting the ground situation with the aim of demonizing Sri Lanka to use their enormous funds accumulated through extortion, drug running, human smuggling, credit card fraud, etc. to stir up hostilities leading to communal violence in pursuit of their goal of a separate mono-ethnic Tamil state in Sri Lanka. 

The US delegation left the UNHRC chamber when a motion was tabled by a member relating to the USA’s use of unmanned armed drones which enter the sovereign air space of other nations to attack and kill those deemed terrorists hostile to the USA, which has resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians numbering thousands who are dismissed as collateral damage.  Illegal invasion of Iraq by the USA, UK and other allies resulting in the deaths of over a million persons and the displacement of millions of civilians, destruction of civilian infrastructure of an inestimable amount which resulted in fractious violence within the country has not been taken up by the High Commissioner up to now. A documentary produced by Maggie O’Kane of the Guardian newspaper claimed that the US authorities had established a death squad of Shia militias numbering 10,000 to attack Sunnis who were retaliating against American aggression, but no questions have been raised by the UN or UNHRC about these war crimes and serious violations of international humanitarian laws.  The UK which is a co-sponsor of the resolution on Sri Lanka which pretends to be a champion of human rights has a terrible track record as a colonial power in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, and the recent ouster of the Chaggosians from their native islands in order to establish a military base in Diego Garcia along with the USA. 

If the UNHRC is to be relevant and respected by the global community it should not be selective in dealing with violations, and should ensure that all member countries are treated uniformly.  The members of the UNHRC assembled in Geneva should act in keeping with established procedures and reject draft resolution HRC#25 which is intrusive, country specific against Sri Lanka which creates a bad precedent of empowering the High Commissioner to carry out independent investigations of a member country thereby contravening UNGA resolution 60/251 which established the Human Rights Council.

 Yours sincerely,

Mahinda Gunasekera
Toronto, Canada

Dated:  March 25, 2014

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