Pressure grows on Sri Lanka in Geneva over Human Rights issues
ECONOMYNEXT – Pressure is growing on Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva with the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet delivering a stern warning which Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena has testily dismissed.
Bachelet followed up her scathing report on Sri Lanka’s Human Rights situation with a statement to the members yesterday Wednesday, Feb 24 calling on them to “explore new ways to advance various types of accountability at the international level, for all parties, and seek redress for victims.”
She said the government has “has failed to pursue genuine truth-seeking or accountability processes. The impact on thousands of survivors, from all communities, is devastating. Moreover, the systems, structures, policies and personnel that gave rise to such grave violations in the past remain – and have recently been reinforced.”
She said “the space for civil society and independent media, which had grown significantly, is now rapidly shrinking. The independence of the judiciary, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the National Police Commission and other key bodies has been deeply eroded by the recently adopted 20th Constitutional Amendment.
Bachelet also emphasized on the “Tamil and Muslim minorities are being excluded by divisive and discriminatory rhetoric including from the highest State officials.”
Minister Gunawardena rejected Bachelet’s report in which he said the High Commissioner “has unjustifiably broadened its scope and mandate further, incorporating many issues of governance and matters that are essentially domestic for any self-respecting, sovereign country.”
He said that the report is in violation of the UN Charter which says states that “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state…”
Gunawardena observed that the “trajectory that has emerged with regard to the recommendations and conclusions reflects the preconceived, politicized and prejudicial agenda which certain elements have relentlessly pursued against Sri Lanka. These recommendations are based on ill-founded allegations.”
Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister also rejected the recommendations from the Council.
“The call for asset freezes, travel bans, references to the ICC and the exercise of universal jurisdiction by individual States, based on evidence that up to date has been denied access to and retained by the High Commissioners Office with some of it unreleased for thirty years, particularly in relation to a country like Sri Lanka which has consistently and constructively engaged with the UN and its mechanisms, points to a distinct and imminent danger which the international community as a whole need to take note of. Such unilateral actions by certain countries are unacceptable and a violation of the principles of natural justice,” he intoned.
“In addition to the progress made since last March, Sri Lanka has provided written comments on instances of erroneous information, misconceived and arbitrary assessments in the Report. It is regrettable that the High Commissioners Office published its Report, accompanied by an unprecedented propaganda campaign on it and refused to publish our comments on the report as an addendum. This has deprived Sri Lanka and members of equal visibility of Sri Lanka’s views on the report” he said.
He warned that insistence “on ever-expanding externally driven prescriptions, notwithstanding our continuous cooperation and engagement with this Council and all UN bodies, can pose numerous challenges and such processes could set a dangerous precedent affecting all member states of the UN.”
“We regret the disproportionate attention drawn to Sri Lanka by this Council, driven by political motivations. Sri Lanka calls upon the members of this Council that any resolution which is based on this Report, be rejected by the Council and be brought to a closure,” he added. (Colombo, February 25, 2021)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana