UNHRC chief says Sri Lanka rights violations of ‘most serious nature'

The report of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)-mandated investigation on alleged war crimes committed in Sri Lanka in 2009 has said the crimes were of the “most serious nature”.

hidden September 15, 2015 16:17:15 IST
UNHRC chief says Sri Lanka rights violations of ‘most serious nature'

By Shreerupa Mitra

The findings of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)-mandated investigation on alleged war crimes and rights violations committed in Sri Lanka in 2009 are of the “most serious nature”, the UNHRC chief said on Monday.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, told the 30th session of the UNHRC on Monday, “This Council has been deeply engaged with the need for accountability, as a necessary step towards reconciliation in that country. Its findings are of the most serious nature.”

UNHRC chief says Sri Lanka rights violations of most serious nature

Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein. Reuters

“This Council owes it to Sri Lankans – and to its own credibility – to ensure an accountability process that produces results, decisively moves beyond the failures of the past, and brings the deep institutional changes needed to guarantee non-recurrence,” the High Commissioner said.

The High Commissioner will formally release the report to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report on 16 September.

The OHCHR was mandated in March 2014 to investigate allegations of war crimes and violations of human rights at the peak and the final stages of civil war in 2009 committed by both parties in Sri Lanka.

The OHCHR was due to present this report in the March session this year but was deferred as a goodwill gesture towards the Maithripala Sirisena government who had taken over in January succeeding the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, the incumbent when the war crimes were committed.

The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, Mr Mangala Samaraweera, addressing the HRC on Monday, said that the deferral of the presentation of the OHCHR report from the 28th session gave the government the “much needed time to begin implementing its reform agenda, renew its engagement with the international community, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his Office.”

“An important feature of the August 17 elections was the return of centrists to power in the legislature and the resounding defeat of extremists on both sides of the divide. As a result the moderates in parliament have once again secured power which augurs well for progressive reform,” Samaraweera said.

The Minister said that in the new Sri Lanka “extraneous considerations such as ethnicity, religion, class, or gender would not be used to deny anyone their rightful place.”

“The Government of Sri Lanka recognizes fully that the process of reconciliation involves fully the broad areas of truth-seeking, justice, reparations and non-recurrence, and for non-recurrence to become truly meaningful, the necessity of reaching a political settlement that addresses the grievances of the Tamil people. We hope that we can achieve this through the adoption of a new Constitution,” he added.

He urged the international community and other stakeholders to have trust in the government and those who doubt the accountability process to not 'fear'.

The US and other core group of countries have sponsored a draft resolution called 'Human Rights in Sri Lanka, with focus on government efforts to provide reconciliation and accountability and based on findings of OHCHR report' which will be presented to the HRC for consideration during the course of this session.

The Sri Lankan war crimes issue is a particularly tricky terrain for the Indian government since the DMK chief M Karunanidhi has reportedly requested India not to support the draft resolution sponsored by the US, which has been watered-down seeking a domestic inquiry instead of an international independent probe.

While India had supported US-sponsored resolutions on Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2013, it abstained from voting in 2014 stating that it is "India's firm belief that adopting an intrusive approach that undermines national sovereignty and institutions is counter-productive."

The OHCHR report will be discussed at the HRC by the member-states at the end of this month.

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