By SAT News Desk
MELBOURNE, 23 March 2021: In a landmark resolution the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) 23 March 2021 passed a resolution on “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka” with 22 voting in favor, 11 voting against, and 14 abstaining. Among others, China, Bangladesh, Russia, and Pakistan voted against and India and Nepal abstained.
The results of the vote were as follows:
In favor (22): Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahamas, Brazil, Bulgaria, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, France, Germany, Italy, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.
Against (11): Bangladesh, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Somalia, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela.
Abstentions (14): Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Japan, Libya, Mauritania, Namibia, Nepal, Senegal, Sudan, and Togo.
In a statement Hilary Power, Amnesty International’s representative in Geneva says, “This is a significant move by the Human Rights Council, which signals a shift in approach by the international community. Years of support and encouragement to Sri Lanka to pursue justice at the national level achieved nothing. This resolution should send a clear message to perpetrators of past and current crimes that they cannot continue to act with impunity.”
“While an important first step, the real impact of further monitoring and reporting will rely on other UN member states using the resolution as a basis for concrete action, including investigations and prosecutions under universal jurisdiction and a possible referral to the International Criminal Court.”
“We urge Sri Lanka to engage constructively with the OHCHR, to implement the recommendations of the report and to allow full and unfettered access to the country. Failing this, the Human Rights Council may take more robust action, including the establishment of an independent accountability mechanism,” said Hilary Power.
In a pre-vote statement reported in The Evening Wrap, The Hindu (23 March 2021), the Indian delegation said India’s approach to the question of human rights in Sri Lanka was guided by the “two fundamental considerations” of support to the Tamils of Sri Lanka for equality, justice, dignity and peace, and ensuring the unity, stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. “We have always believed that these two goals are mutually supportive and Sri Lanka’s progress is best assured by simultaneously addressing both objectives,” India said, reiterating its earlier position.
Meanwhile, in a pre-recorded video address Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena to the UNHRC before the vote said, ” “It is regrettable that … elements working against Sri Lanka intend to table another country-specific resolution.”
Members should choose whether Sri Lanka “warrants the urgent attention of this council – or if this campaign is essentially a political move that contravenes the very values and principles on which this council has been established”, he added. (Al Jazeera, 24 February 2021).