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Effects and implications of the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka explained

FILE PHOTO – United Nations Human Rights Council/UNHRC.org

ECONOMYNEXT – The result of the passing of a resolution concerning Sri Lanka in Geneva at the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) has left many of our citizens asking questions as to how it will impact the country and its future.

Here are some of the questions we have been asked and the answers we gathered.

Question: Will there be sanctions against Sri Lanka as a result of the passing of the Resolution?
Answer: No

As Senior Researcher at the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Colombo Bhavani Fonseka points out the UNHRC does not have the power to impose sanctions. “Only the UN Security Council has that kind of power and that is an entirely different process.”

However, Fonseka says that “individual countries may impose targeted sanctions such as travel bans on certain persons.”

Countries or groups such as the European Union – which supported the resolution may withdraw special concessions such as the GSP+ which gives Sri Lankan exports a monetary advantage in those markets. That concession which had been withdrawn previously was restored after the 2015 Presidential Elections.

Opposition Member of Parliament Eran Wickramaratne observed: “An urgent fresh appraisal is needed to minimise the negative economic consequences of the resolution. We must not risk legal battles in foreign jurisdictions, travel bans, economic and trade embargoes. The economic consequences will be catastrophic.”

Question: Did Sri Lanka win or lose in Geneva?
Answer: We lost the vote

This is not a zero-sum game. To begin with, the Resolution did not target Sri Lanka as a nation or its general public. It equally pointed fingers at some members of the Sri Lankan Military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam for gross Human Rights violations such as War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity.

It calls for transparent investigations and a process that would lead to healing and reconciliation.

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The Resolution urges the government to implement recommendations already proposed by multiple commissions appointed by the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration. The report presented by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also addressed the overtly anti-minority actions of the current administration.

Question: Was it a diplomatic failure?
Answer: Yes

Despite the government’s claim that the country “won” on the premise that abstentions equal support, some of our staunchest allies, such as India and Japan, who have contributed hugely to our economic and political development did not oppose the resolution. Instead, India used the occasion to reiterate at the debate on the resolution that it had the interests of the Tamil minority at heart.

Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director of CPA called it “a diplomatic fiasco.”

Sri Lanka has in recent months spoken in favour of North Korea and Eritrea at the UNHRC making it impossible for Japan and South Korea as well as many African countries to support Colombo’s stand, some observers have said.

The hardcore vocal LTTE supporters, mostly concentrated in the West, had a muted celebration as the resolution condemned the Tigers for preventing civilians from leaving the warzone following its long-term strategy of using people as a human shield.

Amnesty International commented that the “resolution responds to an OHCHR report released in January, which warned that Sri Lanka’s persistent failure to address historic crimes is giving way to ‘clear early warning signs of a deteriorating human rights situation and a significantly heightened risk of future violations,’ and made concrete recommendations for “preventive action” for the Human Rights Council, including enhanced monitoring and reporting, and the collection and preservation of evidence, which has been mandated by this resolution.”

Question: Will Sri Lankans be charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC)?
Answer: No

The old claim made by the current government’s supporters that Sri Lanka’s “war-heroes” will be taken to the electric chair is absolutely incorrect, and pure misinformation used for propaganda purposes, former Parliamentarian Dr Jayampathy Wickremeratne said.

The ICC, Fonseka points out, “acts only when the domestic judicial process is unable to deal with a matter.” She points out the domestic set-up has to detain and hand over the person for trial. The ICC she says has no mandate to enter a country to carry out an arrest.

No action can be taken without the cooperation of the Government of Sri Lanka, she added.

Question: So what is the effect of the Resolution, will it affect the country immedietely?
Answer: No

The immediate action is to pass funds to create an office that will investigate, collect and preserve evidence of alleged War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity committed in Sri Lanka during the war.

Amnesty noted that the “resolution not only ramps up international monitoring and scrutiny of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka but also mandates the UN human rights office to collect, consolidate and preserve evidence for future prosecutions and make recommendations to the international community on steps they can make to deliver on justice and accountability.”

Its representative in Geneva, Hilary Power, was quoted as saying: “This is a significant move by the Human Rights Council, which signals a shift in approach by the international community. Years of support and encouragement to Sri Lanka to pursue justice at the national level achieved nothing. This resolution should send a clear message to perpetrators of past and current crimes that they cannot continue to act with impunity.” (Colombo, March 25, 2021)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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