France asks Sri Lanka to honour UN pledges on rights

FRENCH POSITION: Thierry Mathou (R), director for Asia and Oceania of the French foreign ministry, speaks to reporters in Colombo on February 27, 2020, after talks with Sri Lankan leaders.

AFP – France Thursday asked Sri Lanka to end impunity and ensure ethnic reconciliation a day after Colombo withdrew from a United Nations resolution investigating alleged atrocities during its decades-long separatist war.

A top French diplomat said Colombo could not wish away the 2015 Human Rights Council resolution which the previous Sri Lankan administration co-sponsored with the unanimous support of UN’s rights body.

“Sri Lanka’s decision to withdraw from the co-sponsorship of the resolution does not mean that the resolution has disappeared. The resolution is still on the table.

“It is legally binding. The objective is still there. Reconciliation has to be a key priority,” Thierry Mathou, director of Asia and Oceania for the French foreign ministry told reporters in Colombo after talks with local leaders.

At least 100,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka’s drawn out Tamil separatist war which ended in May 2009.

The end of the conflict also sparked allegations that troops killed 40,000 minority Tamils while crushing Tiger rebels who were known for their trade mark suicide bombings.

“We have heard and read that economic development will lead to reconciliation (in Sri Lanka). I tend to say that in order to reach economic development, you have to get reconciliation. So, the fight against impunity is obviously an important objective.”

Sri Lanka on Wednesday formally told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that it was pulling out of the 2015 resolution.

Current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was president when Sri Lankan troops defeated Tamil Tiger guerrillas. His brother Gotabaya, who is now president, was defence secretary at the time.

Sri Lanka’s Foreign minister Dinesh Gunawardena told the UNHRC that the resolution was “a blot on the sovereignty and dignity of the people of Sri Lanka”.

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