Govt. will co-sponsor UNHRC resolution: Prime Minister
Negotiations on draft resolution go down to the wire
‘International judges’ reference replaced with ‘foreign and C’wealth judges and lawyers’
Govt. manages to include clause about accountability for LTTE crimes in resolution
Resolution tabled at UNHRC five hours after official deadline
Dharisha Bastians Reporting from Geneva
Sri Lanka has decided to co-sponsor the US draft resolution to promote reconciliation and accountability in the island, marking a major departure from the rancour that has dominated debate on the country's human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva since 2012.
The official draft resolution A_HRC_30_L.29 on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka was tabled at the UNHRC in Geneva last evening.
"We can face the future without fear," Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said, as he announced consensus with the United States on the draft resolution at the 50th Anniversary celebrations of CIMA Sri Lanka in Colombo last night.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said the Government had reached a compromise with sponsors of the resolution on prosecuting allegations of serious human rights violations and potential war crimes under a "Sri Lankan judicial mechanism" that will include local, foreign and Commonwealth judges and lawyers.
"Sri Lanka has decided to co-sponsor a resolution on Sri Lanka in Geneva," the Prime Minister said.
The Government had also agreed to implement a political solution to the island's ethnic problem and bring the necessary constitutional measures to address the issue, the Prime Minister announced.
At first glance, the negotiated draft text is a win-win for the main sponsors of the resolution and the Government of Sri Lanka. During hectic negotiations, the Government has managed to include several clauses in the document recognising the progress made on reconciliation since January 2015 and LTTE crimes highlighted in the UN investigation report. The draft text has however retained its core elements, by also retaining strong paragraphs calling on the Sri Lankan Government to address allegations of sexual violence and torture and implement security sector reform.
The Government has managed to get compromise on language in Operative Paragraph 4 of the zero draft of the resolution that previously called on Sri Lanka to involve international judges, prosecutors and investigators in Sri Lanka's judicial mechanism to address war crimes allegations.
Based on the draft tabled at the UNHRC yesterday, operative paragraph 6 now calls for the inclusion of foreign and Commonwealth judges. The amended 'compromise' paragraph, now reads as follows:
"...further affirms in this regard the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the Special Counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, and authorised prosecutors and investigators."
The compromise language in Operative Paragraph 6 was proposed by the Prime Minister's office in Colombo and communicated to negotiating teams in Geneva, Daily FT learns.
Operative Paragraph 5, which the Government of Sri Lanka also took a major objection to during informal consultations on the draft in Geneva, has been changed in the tabled draft. Now OP 7, the tabled draft of the resolution encourages the Government to reform domestic laws to ensure it can effectively implement its own commitments, LLRC recommendations and the OISL report in line with its international obligations.
OP 7 now refers to, "the trial and punishment of those most responsible for the full range of crimes under the general principles of law recognised by the community of nations relevant to violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, including during the period covered by the LLRC" - which is 2002-2011. The provision seeks to ensure the Government will pass the laws necessary to ensure violations of international humanitarian law and war crimes can be prosecuted under Sri Lankan law.
Another major concession made to the Sri Lankan negotiators was the inclusion of Operative Paragraph 5, which "recognises the need for a process of accountability and reconciliation for violations and abuses committed by the LTTE as highlighted in the OISL report."
The new draft resolution tabled yesterday also uses more cautious wording in introductory paragraphs, using preambular paragraph 17 to state that "a credible accountability process for those most responsible for violations and abuses will safeguard the reputation of those, including within the military, who conducted themselves in an appropriate manner with honor and professionalism." This language also seeks to assist the Government to make a good case for accountability domestically, UNHRC observers said.
The resolution calls for an oral update by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on progress achieved in Sri Lanka in June 2016 and a comprehensive report assessing the situation in March 2017. This provision means that Sri Lanka will not face another resolution at the UNHRC for at least another 18 months, giving the Government breathing space to implement its commitments on reconciliation and accountability.
Negotiations on a 'consensual' draft resolution on Sri Lanka came down to the wire yesterday, with Government negotiators and member states belonging to the 'core group' of sponsors of the text battling for a compromise over language all parties could find acceptable.
The deal was finally struck shortly before an extended deadline for submission lapsed.
Language in the draft resolution tabled at the Human Rights Council yesterday were agreed upon during extensive negotiations spanning Colombo, Washington, Geneva, London and several other key capitals of the world over the past six days.
The text of the draft resolution could be further tweaked in the days ahead, Daily FT learns, but the sponsoring countries managed to get broad consensus for the current draft from the Government of Sri Lanka and other delegations involved in the negotiations. The currently tabled draft contains 23 preambular paragraphs and 20 operative paragraphs, making it slightly shorter in length than the 'zero' draft.
Unable to achieve consensus on the draft by 1.00 p.m. - the original UNHRC secretariat deadline for submission of resolutions - member states sponsoring the resolution sought an extension of the deadline until 5.00 p.m. yesterday.
The US-sponsored draft resolution was finally tabled at 6.00 p.m. yesterday. For now, the resolution is co-sponsored by the US, UK, Macedonia and Montenegro, the 'core group' of member states that have led the negotiations on the draft.
The Government of Sri Lanka agreed to collaborate on a "consensual" resolution sponsored by the United States, to be adopted without vote at the UNHRC's 30th session. However, negotiations were complicated after the Government demanded sweeping changes to the resolution's "zero draft" at consecutive informal consultations on the text earlier this week.