Conflict Alerts # 38, 4 March 2020
In the news
The previous government of Sri Lanka co-sponsored the 30/1 Geneva resolution on ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. The newly elected government proposed to withdraw from the resolution in 2020, which was a promise given during the presidential election campaign.
It was believed that the provisions in the resolution violated the country’s sovereignty and made Sri Lanka bound by International Human Rights Law. The move has further emphasized on safeguarding national security without compromising the democratic space of Sri Lankans.
Issues at large
The inception dates back to 23rd May 2009 with the Joint statement by the Government of Sri Lanka and the UN at the conclusion of UN Secretary-General’s visit to Sri Lanka. The excerpts of the statement highlighted that “Sri Lanka reiterated its strongest commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, in keeping with the international human rights standards and Sri Lanka’s international obligations.” The report of Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and Paranagama Commission were a part of this commitment.
30/1 resolution consisted of provisions on reparation, truth-seeking, democratic institutional reform, ensuring accountability post-conflict, advancing the rule of law in accordance with International Human Rights Law and investigations on crimes committed by both parties for which the current government doesn’t want to stand. Sri Lanka believes to have become successful in demining, resettlement, the return of land used by security forces, rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-LTTE combatants, rapid infrastructure development, restoration, the establishment of domestic mechanisms to address issues related to accountability, rule of law and human rights after a 30-year armed conflict.
The previous government is criticized for accepting the OISL report which was used at the basis for 30/1 and condemn Sri Lankan security forces and creating space for further allegation by the United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross. Co-sponsoring has violated the democratic and sovereign principles of Sri Lanka. One of the main questions remain as to how Sri Lanka co-sponsored and got the resolution passed at the UNHRC without the perusal of the President.
The decision of Sri Lanka is to withdraw from 40/1, which incorporates 30/1 in 2015 and 34/1 in 2017 while recommending to appoint a Commission of Inquiry (COI) headed by a Justice of Supreme Court to review the alleged violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and propose deliverable measurements. Sri Lanka is determined to carry forward the commitment on 2030 sustainable agenda and advance commitment to individual and collective rights.
The next possible option for Sri Lanka is to propose a counter resolution at the UNHRC Council. However, Sri Lanka doesn’t seem to have a support base of developing countries voting for the counter resolution at the moment.
Several countries including the United States, Germany, Canada and India are very critical and disappointed about Sri Lanka’s decision to disrespect international norms and ignore human rights. China and Russia seem to be neutral on the issue for the moment.
The decision has impacted Sri Lanka’s image internationally; it has to pay attention on diplomacy and foresight in devising foreign policy.