Asia Securities says that the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution on Sri Lanka is unlikely to lead to hard trade sanctions.
It said while the probability of hard sanctions on Sri Lanka is minimal at this point, the likelihood of a continuation of travel bans on individuals (as currently by the US on the Army Chief) and soft sanctions (if at all) could take place following the conclusion of the discussions.
“If imposed, we expect soft sanctions to continue until there is material visibility on the Government’s efforts to address the human rights issues addressed by the UNHRC. The key positive is that the resolution at this point does not direct to ending up in international criminal court, but is likely to result in finding a solution internally, under the watch of the UNHRC,” Asia Securities said in an ‘Economic Note’.
Following the Government’s official withdrawal of the co-sponsorship of UNHR resolutions following the 2019 Presidential Elections, the UNHRC re-initiated discussions around the country’s Human Rights concerns earlier this month. This was presented by the core group of countries, led by the United Kingdom, with strong support from the United States.
The resolution around Sri Lanka’s Human Rights violations commenced earlier this month; the 46th regular session is taking place from 22 February to 23 March. The resolution was presented by the core group of countries, led by the United Kingdom (including Germany and Canada), with the support of the United States.
This follows Sri Lanka’s official withdrawal from co-sponsorship agreement made in 2015 by the Yahapalana Government, following the Presidential Elections in 2019. The previous Government committed to commencing investigations on violations and hold trials accordingly. It is noteworthy that in addition to the concerns around the armed conflict, the resolution also included the Government’s stance on mandatory cremations for all COVID-19 fatalities.
Asia Securities said overall, while the resolution presented highlights a number of concerns surrounding factors like an “accelerating militarisation of civilian Government functions” and lower human rights independence, the resolution does not indicate the core group’s intentions of addressing these issues in any international criminal court, as done with individuals from countries like Congo on human rights violations. Instead, the HR High Commissioner’s report has recommended asset freezes and travel bans against individuals who have been credibly alleged to have committed war crimes in Sri Lanka.
“In our view, at this point, the likely outcome would be that the Government would agree to revisit the accountability measures presented in the resolution presented by the Yahapalana Government, without agreeing to all the clauses in it,” Asia Securities said.
There is little information to suggest that the council would direct hard sanctions to be imposed on Sri Lanka, such as blanket trade restrictions, it said.
“While we expect some means of soft sanctions (if at all) to take place, these will likely be in the form of a continuation of travel bans and the freezing of assets on individuals. We note that wide ranging trade sanctions are usually a means of last resort, when addressing significant human rights violations, curbing illegal smuggling, or stopping extremism groups,” Asia Securities said.
“In the event sanctions are placed, we expect them to be placed for the long-term, similar to most nations which have undergone sanctions in the past five years. However, looking at previous examples, the timeline for sanctions to actually be placed will take further processing and will not be immediate,” it added.
UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet presented her report on Sri Lanka yesterday (24 February), which will be followed by a discussion on the assessment of Sri Lanka’s position.