India, Pakistan weigh in on SL issues at UNHRC 

Friday, 26 February 2021 00:18 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Delhi says devolution and territorial integrity go hand-in-hand in SL 
  • Pakistan wants early implementation GoSL commitment on burial rights 
  • Member states ask OHCHR how evidence gathering mechanism can be supported 
  • China, Russia, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Eritrea support SL at interactive dialogue

High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s assessment of developments in Sri Lanka nearly 12 years after the end of the conflict raised important concerns, the Indian Government told the UN Human Rights Council yesterday, reiterating its call for the reconciliation and full implementation of the 13th Amendment to meet the aspirations of the Tamil people. 

“We believe that respecting the rights of the Tamil community, including through meaningful devolution, contributes directly to the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka. Therefore, we advocate that delivering on the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil community is in the best interests of Sri Lanka,” Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey, Permanent Representative of India to the UN in Geneva told the Council during a discussion on Bachelet’s report on Sri Lanka. 

India had been an “active participant” in discussions and resolutions on SL at the UNHRC, Ambassador Panday said. 

India voted in support of the UNHRC resolutions on SL in 2012 and 2013, and abstained from voting in 2014 when it opposed the decision of the council to set up an OHCHR-led investigation into war-time abuses in the island.  

The representative of Pakistan meanwhile urged the Sri Lankan Government to make good “early” on its commitment to allow funeral rights to all religious minorities during the COVID-19 pandemic, but urged the Council to pursue genuine dialogue with SL’s democratically-elected Government in order to promote justice and reconciliation in the island. 

The Council should consider SL’s strong democratic traditions, impressive socio-economic record and multi-ethnic composition of the parliament and the cabinet of ministers. 

“The High Commissioner’s Report and the Council’s deliberations should acknowledge these positive aggregates,” the representative for Pakistan noted. 

All eyes were on South Asia’s feuding neighbours India and Pakistan when the UNHRC finally commenced an interactive dialogue yesterday (25) on a report on SL’s human rights situation by High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. 

During their interventions, neither country signalled its positions on the vote on a draft resolution to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, which will be taken up at the conclusion of the 46th Session of the UNHRC. 

Pakistan’s interventions on the issue of mandatory cremations of Covid-19 fatalities at the Council came soon after Pakistani Premier Imran Khan concluded a state visit to Colombo. During the visit, Khan did not overtly raise the issue of mandatory cremations that has caused particular anguish to SL’s Muslim community with the Government. 

China, Russia, North Korea, Eritrea, Belarus, Syria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Nicaragua, Vietnam, the Philippines, Iran, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal expressed their strong support for the SL Government during the interactive dialogue. All supportive member states urged the Council to allow SL to determine its own course on reconciliation and justice. 

China said it had consistently opposed politicisation and double standards of human rights, as well as using human rights as a pretext for interference in other’s internal affairs. The Federation of Russia said Sri Lanka must itself determine the priorities for action and the areas which require international assistance without external pressure, because it is only in that way the measures can be effective. 

The interactive dialogue was expected to be held soon after Bachelet delivered her oral report SL to the Council on Wednesday, but was delayed until Thursday morning Geneva time due to the session running over time. 

The entire Western bloc of member states expressed support for Bachelet’s report to the Council and voiced grave concerns about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. 

The Government of Canada during its intervention, asked how member states could support the OHCHR to gather and preserve evidence for future trials. Germany expressed its support to pursue judicial proceedings against Sri Lankan perpetrators of grave crimes, saying a case was already underway in Germany against a former LTTE member. 

The Representative for France asked how the Human Rights Council will continue its work with SL if the government breaks off dialogue with the Council altogether. Switzerland noted that domestic processes for accountability had not worked in SL and said the country was still denying the past. The Representative for Switzerland also asked the High Commissioner to explain how a dedicated evidence gathering mechanism would be designed. 

Just days after Malawi announced it was joining the core group sponsoring the resolution on Sri Lanka at the Council, the Government of Gabon also took cognisance of the High Commissioner’s report on SL, saying that committing violations of human rights could undermine the progress made. The interventions by two key members of the African bloc, signals that the Government cannot take the support of African nations at the Council for granted when it tallies its support for a vote on the resolution. 


US wants GoSL ‘strategy and timetable’ for implementation of Bachelet’s recommendations made public