By Chandani Kirinde
Sri Lanka has requested a meeting with the UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet as the country begins to work towards the closure of a contentious UNHRC Resolution on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka at the 43rd Session of the Council in Geneva later this week.
Official sources said a request has been made for Minister of Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunawardena to meet with Bachelet, but no date has been fixed yet.
The Minister will lead Sri Lanka’s delegation to the HR sessions and will be accompanied by Justice Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and State Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe. The Foreign Relations Ministry officials will join them in Geneva.
Gunawardena will address the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session on Wednesday, where he will announce Sri Lanka’s decision to withdraw from co-sponsorship of the Resolution 40/1 of March 2019, which also incorporates and builds on preceding resolutions 30/1 of October 2015 and 34/1 of March 2014.
He will announce the intention of the Government to work towards the closure of the Resolution, in cooperation with the members of the UN while stating that the Government will continue to work with the UN and its agencies, including the regular human rights mandates, bodies and mechanisms, and seek as required capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic properties and policies.
A review of the progress made on Sri Lanka’s Resolution, which the Government co-sponsored, will be taken up on Thursday.
In its resolution 30/1, the Human Rights Council requested the Human Rights High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR) to continue to assess the progress on the implementation of its recommendations and other relevant processes related to reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka.
In its resolution 40/1, the Council also requested OHCHR to present a written update to the Council at its forty-third session. The Council will consider the written update of OHCHR on Thursday.
Cabinet gave its approval last week for the decision to withdraw from the co-sponsorship of the resolution and declare its commitment to achieve sustainable peace through an inclusive, domestically designed and executed reconciliation and accountability process, including through the appropriate adaptation of assisting mechanisms, in line with the Government policy framework.
The Government is proposing the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry (COI), headed by a Justice of the Supreme Court, to review the reports of previous Sri Lanka COIs which investigated alleged violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law, assess the status of implementation of their recommendations, and to propose deliverable measures to implement them, keeping in line with the new Government’s policy.
The Government also hopes to address other outstanding concerns and to introduce institutional reforms where necessary in a manner consistent with Sri Lanka’s obligations, including the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and demonstrate in good faith the policies rooted in the Government’s commitment to the people by advocating individual and collective rights and protections under the law, ensuing justice and reconciliation, and addressing the concerns of vulnerable sections of society.