Foreign Policy Blogs

Sri Lanka Goes Down

US Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe briefed the press at the United Nations, Feb 22, 2012-on U.S. priorities at the 19th Session of the U.N. Human Rights Council-U.S. Mission Photo by Eric Bridiers

The global diplomatic community heaped major embarrassment on Sri Lanka on March 22 as it adopted a United States-sponsored resolution at the ongoing session of UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) censuring the island nation for alleged war crimes in the conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels that ended in 2009.

In the 47-member UNHRC, 24 countries voted for the resolution and 15 against it, while eight nations abstained.

The biggest surprise came from Sri Lanka’s neighbour India, which joined the West in voting in favour of the resolution. India normally does not vote on nation-specific resolutions, but made a last-minute shift in the current instance after overwhelming pressure from parties in Tamil Nadu pressured the government to vote against Sri Lanka.

DMK, an ally of the ruling Congress government and a party that champions the cause of Tamil population in India, had threatened to withdraw support to the government if it did not vote Sri Lanka.

But other nations in India’s neighbourhood like China, Pakistan and Bangladesh against the resolution.

The resolution asked the government to explain how it would address the alleged violations of international humanitarian laws and how it would implement the recommendations of the LLRC.

It also encouraged the UN human rights office to offer Sri Lanka advice and assistance and the government to accept it.

Explaining its position on its vote for the resolution, India said it believes the primary responsibility for promotion and protection of human rights lies with the states.

“We would also urge that Sri Lanka takes forward the measures for accountability and to promote human rights that it has committed to. It is these steps, more than anything we declare in this council, which would bring about genuine reconciliation between all the communities of Sri Lanka, including the minority Tamil community,” it said at the UNHRC session.

India also urged the Sri Lankan government to take forward the process of broader dialogue and show concrete movement towards a meaningful devolution of powers, including the implementation of the 13th Amendment, a bill that gives autonomous administrative rights to Sri Lankan Tamils in the country’s north province, and beyond.

It further told the world body that India will continue to remain engaged with the country to take forward the process of reconciliation to secure for all its citizens a future marked by equality, dignity, justice and self-respect.

The Sri Lankan delegation rejected the US-sponsored resolution terming it as “misconceived, unwarranted and ill-timed”.

“Situation in the country does not warrant attention and criticism in this resolution. We are justified in asserting that we require time to realise comprehensive reconciliation,” it told the UNHRC prior to the voting.

It further informed that the Sri Lankan government took a stand that it will not accept such a resolution to ensure that a bad precedent is not established by this Council.

“The way in which you deal with this matter today will decide whether or not purely parochial if not political agendas are removed from the promotion or perception of human rights permitted to prevail.”

Arguing that stability and peace had been achieved in the island nation after the end of the 26-year-old conflict in May 2009, the Lankan delegation told the council that Sri Lanka should be given time to “further consolidate” the progress achieved.



Anshuman Rawat
Anshuman Rawat

Author of Conflicts, Geopolitics and Asia Volume 1: 2010-12 – A Short Diary of Notes from the Region, Anshuman Rawat is a geopolitical/international relations journalist, communications specialist and serial media entrepreneur from India. Founder-Director of a media company, he spends much of his professional calendar as an editorial, management and communications consultant. He is also the founder of 'League of India', a news action tank that is committed to the idea of shaping a progressive India by fostering centre-right liberal governance, a free economy and an open society.