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US tables ‘toned down’ final resolution on Sri Lanka

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The US is going ahead with its resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva as the Rajapaksa government has failed to fulfill its international obligations, the Obama Administration said. Meanwhile however a final version which is a toned down document as compared to the previous drafts of the US resolution on Sri Lanka was tabled at the UNHRC.

The final draft tabled acknowledges the country’s progress in some areas of reconciliation and no longer notes a call for an international inquiry on war crimes allegations by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.

The final draft welcomes the announcement of Northern Provincial Council polls in September 2013 and acknowledges Sri Lanka’s progress in rebuilding infrastructure, resettlement of IDPs and demining but notes that much work lies ahead. The final draft of the US resolution on Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka tabled at the Council at 6 p.m. Geneva time yesterday, has 32 co-sponsors, including the United States.

The resolution;

The Human Rights Council,

Reaffirming the purposes and principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations,

Guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights and other relevant instruments,

Bearing in mind General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006,

Recalling Council resolutions 5/1 and 5/2 of 18 June 2007, on institution-building of the Human Rights Council,

Recalling Human Rights Council resolution 19/2 of 22 March 2012 on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka,

Reaffirming that it is the responsibility of each State to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of its entire population,

Reaffirming also that States must ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism complies with their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law, as applicable,

Welcoming the announcement by the Government of Sri Lanka to hold elections to the Provincial Council in the Northern Province in September 2013,

Welcoming and acknowledging the progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka in rebuilding infrastructure, demining, resettling the majority of internally displaced persons, and noting nonetheless that considerable work lies ahead in the areas of justice, reconciliation and resumption of livelihoods, and stressing the importance of the full participation of local populations, including representatives of civil society and minorities, in these efforts,

Taking note of the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of Sri Lanka and its findings and recommendations, and acknowledging its possible contribution to the process of national reconciliation in Sri Lanka,

Taking note of the National Plan of Action to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of the Government of Sri Lanka and its commitments as set forth in response to the findings and recommendations of the Commission,

Noting that the national plan of action does not adequately address all of the findings and constructive recommendations of the Commission,

Recalling the constructive recommendations contained in the Commission’s report, including the need to credibly investigate widespread allegations of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, demilitarize the north of Sri Lanka, implement impartial land dispute resolution mechanisms, re-evaluate detention policies, strengthen formerly independent civil institutions, reach a political settlement on the devolution of power to the provinces, promote and protect the right of freedom of expression for all and enact rule of law reforms,

Noting with concern that the National Plan of Action and the Commission’s report do not adequately address serious allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law,

Expressing concern at the continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, and violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as intimidation of and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society and journalists, threats to judicial independence and the rule of law, and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief,

Calling upon the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfil its public commitments, including on the devolution of political authority, which is integral to reconciliation and the full enjoyment of human rights by all members of its population,

Expressing appreciation for the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka in facilitating the visit of a technical mission from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and encouraging the Government to increase its dialogue and cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner,

Noting the High Commissioner’s call for an independent and credible international investigation into alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law,

1.       Welcomes the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on advice and technical assistance for the Government of Sri Lanka on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka[1] and the recommendations and conclusions contained therein, in particular on the establishment of a truth-seeking mechanism as an integral part of a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to transitional justice;

2.       Encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations made in the report of the Office of the High Commissioner, and also calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, as applicable;

3.       Reiterates its call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to implement effectively the constructive recommendations made in the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and to take all necessary additional steps to fulfil its relevant legal obligations and commitment to initiate credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equity and accountability, and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans;

4.       Encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to cooperate with special procedures mandate holders and to respond formally to their outstanding requests, including by extending invitations and providing access;

5.       Encourages the Office of the High Commissioner and relevant special procedures mandate holders to provide, in consultation with and with the concurrence of the Government of Sri Lanka, advice and technical assistance on implementing the above-mentioned steps;

6.       Requests the Office of the High Commissioner, with input from relevant special procedures mandate holders, as appropriate, to present an oral updateto the Human Rights Council at its twenty-fourth session, and a comprehensive report  followed by a discussion at the twenty-fifth session, on the implementation of the present resolution

Co-sponsors of the resolution;

 Austria, Canada, Croatia, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, St Kitts and Nevis, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and United States of America.

Press Briefing of State Dept Spokesperson

Without naming any one, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, on Monday, told reporters at her daily news conference that the US is working with a lot of governments who share its concerns about the lack of progress in Sri Lanka.

“It is not a surprise to the government of Sri Lanka that we are doing this. We made clear publicly and privately that this was a response to the fact that we just didn’t see the kind of movement that was necessary.

We didn’t see promises fulfilled. So we’re being very transparent with the government of Sri Lanka and we’re expecting strong support for the resolution that we’ve put forward,” Ms Nuland said.

“I remember when the (Sri Lankan) Foreign Minister was here last year and met with (the then) Secretary (of State, Hillary) Clinton, she made clear that if we didn’t have progress, we would go forward, and that’s what we’ve done,” she said.

The Sri Lankan government needs to fulfill its promise and international obligations, she said when asked about the views of the critics of the American resolution that this would boost the morale of pro-LTTE groups in the country and the world over.

“The best thing that the government of Sri Lanka could do for its own people and to undercut the claims of these groups would be to fulfill the obligations that it made to the international community to take the process forward. So that hasn’t happened and we are taking more measures in the Human Rights Council to make clear that progress has been insufficient,” Ms Nuland said.

The US had adopted a similar resolution last year with India’s support which bound Sri Lanka to make rapid progress on reconciliation with Tamils.

Excerpt of Press Briefing;

QUESTION: If I can check with you on Sri Lanka. The U.S. delegation which is going to – in Geneva right now, the kind of talks you’re having with the Sri Lankan government and also the Indian government on this issue, do you have something to say on that?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know when we’ve spoken about it here that we are sponsoring a new resolution in the Human Rights Council and we’re working with a lot of governments who share our concerns about the lack of progress in Sri Lanka. It is not a surprise to the Government of Sri Lanka that we are doing this. We made clear publicly and privately that this was a response to the fact that we just didn’t see the kind of movement that was necessary. We didn’t see promises fulfilled. So we’re being very transparent with the Government of Sri Lanka, and we’re expecting strong support for the resolution that we’ve put forward.

QUESTION: But there are sections from the pro-LTT groups which are coming up very strongly in support of the resolutions in Geneva. Do you think that this – there are some critics who say the passing of this resolution will give boost to LTT activities not only in Sri Lanka but world over.

MS. NULAND: Well, the best thing that the Government of Sri Lanka could do for its own people and to undercut the claims of these groups would be to fulfill the obligations that it made to the international community to take the process forward. So that hasn’t happened, and we are taking more measures in the Human Rights Council to make clear that progress has been insufficient.

QUESTION: And then lastly, has the Indian government approached you for any change in the draft resolution?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have any details about the discussions that are ongoing. I’ll send you to our mission out there.

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