United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a changed draft resolution on Sri Lanka during the 25th session held in Geneva on 27 March 2014. The resolution seeks to authorize UNHRC to set up an independent international inquiry in Sri Lanka to probe into human rights violations during Sri Lankan civil war against LTTE in 2009.
The resolution titled Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka was adopted by the 47-nation UNHRC with 23 members voting in favour of the resolution, while 12 voted against. 12 members abstained from voting including India.
The changed draft resolution on Sri Lanka was prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) headed by Navi Pillay and sponsored by the US.
The Highlights of the Changed Draft resolution
• The OHCHR to investigate into the war crimes that took place between the time period 2002 to 2009.
• The resolution demands accountability for the killing of as many as 40000 civilians during the end of war between Sri Lankan government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE).
• The OHCHR will not probe into the allegations of human rights violations in the post-war period. That is, no war crimes committed after 2009, when the war ended, will fall within the ambit of investigation.
• The change also excluded the Indian participation in the pre-2002 period especially during the Indian peacekeeping Force mission in the late eighties.
• The resolution mandated the OHCHR to investigate human rights abuses and violations in Sri Lanka including the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).
Despite voting in favour of previous resolutions against Sri Lanka presented in 2009, 2012 and 2013, India this time abstained from voting. This is because the resolution seeking to investigate, assess and monitor human rights violation is intrusive in approach. This intrusive approach undermines the concept of national sovereignty and is a departure from the constructive international dialogue needed to address the issue. On the whole resolution will undermine the UNHRC efforts to set up a universal respect for human rights. Besides, India also wants to focus on the post-war rehabilitation of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and the reconstruction of the Northern Province which was destroyed due to war.
Sri Lanka Stand
Sri Lanka rejected the resolution and appreciated the India’s stand towards the UNHRC resolution. Sri Lanka decided that their government will continue with its domestic process to address human rights related issues and not agree to an international process.
Earlier US Sponsored Resolutions against Sri Lanka
In 2009, the resolution against Sri Lanka was passed with 29 votes in favor, 12 against, and 6 abstentions. India voted in favour of the resolution.
In 2012, US sponsored resolution got the support of 24 (including India) out of 47 member states of UN Human Rights Council, while 15 member-states voted against and eight abstained.
In 2013, the US resolution was supported by 31 including India, 15 against and 1 abstained.
The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) is an inquiry commission appointed by the President Mahindra Rajapaksa in 2010. It was headed by C R De Silva, the then Attorney General of Sri Lanka.
The commission investigated the facts and circumstances of failure of the ceasefire agreement in February 2002 and the conclusion of the war with the defeat of the LTTE in 2009. LLRC admitted that civilians had been killed accidently by the Sri Lankan military which is contradictory to Sri Lankan government’s claim of Zero Civilian causalities.
When: 27 March 2014