By Namini Wijedasa
Sri Lanka, along with the Britain-led ‘core group’, will co-sponsor a fresh resolution at the UN Human Rights Council on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in the country, authoritative sources said.
The ‘Zero Draft Resolution on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka’ is already in circulation. Among other things, it envisages continued involvement of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and special procedure mandate holders in advising and providing technical assistance “on the promotion and protection of human rights and truth, justice, reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka”.
Only last week, President Maithripala Sirisena told the Sunday Times Political Editor that Sri Lanka was considering withdrawing co-sponsorship of the resolution. He maintained that Sri Lanka’s armed forces have not committed ‘war crimes’ and that the worst crimes were carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The resolution also requests the OHCHR to continue to assess progress on the implementation of its recommendations and “other relevant processes related to reconciliation, accountability and human rights”. It bears upon the OHCHR to present a further written update on Sri Lanka’s progress to the HRC at its 43rd session and a comprehensive report at its 46th session.
The first open informal consultation on the zero draft resolution is scheduled to take place on Tuesday at the Palais de Nations in Geneva. At the UNHRC, informal consultations on proposals convened by main sponsors are the primary means for the negotiation of draft resolutions and decisions. They are convened by the sponsors and at least one should be held on each draft resolution before it is considered for action by the Council.
The core group on Sri Lanka also comprises Canada, Germany, Macedonia and Montenegro. Britain has taken a lead role after the United States left the HRC last year. Till then, the US was the main force behind resolutions on Sri Lanka.
Earlier, Britain announced that it will work in partnership with Sri Lanka and look to continue the cooperation which began in 2015 to implement the commitments in HRC Resolution 30/1.
The five-page HRC/RES/30/1, adopted on October 1, 2015, ties Sri Lanka to a set of commitments including the establishment of “a commission for truth, justice, reconciliation and non-recurrence, an office of missing persons and an office for reparations”.
The Government also undertook to set up “a judicial mechanism with a special counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, as applicable” and affirmed that the process “should include independent judicial and prosecutorial institutions led by individuals known for their integrity and impartiality”.
This year’s zero draft resolution recognises “the strong role played by Sri Lanka’s democratic institutions in the peaceful resolution of the political situation” that arose from October to December 2018. It welcomes the establishment of the Office on Missing Persons and appointment of Commissioners.
The draft also welcomes the visits to the country of various special procedure mandate holders (special rapporteurs, working groups and independent experts). It notes with appreciation the return of “some private land” previously held by the military to civilians but recalls the Government’s “repeated public commitments” to release all such lands.
The others steps taken note of by the resolution include “progress towards establishing an Office on Reparations and the submission to Cabinet of a concept paper on a Bill to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the proposed repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1978 and the preparation of a draft Counter Terrorism Act”. It underscores the need for “further significant progress” and encourages the adoption of a time-bound implementation strategy.
Meanwhile, the latest OHCHR report on Sri Lanka is also expected to be released soon.