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Recently the United Nations Human Rights Council(UNHRC) adopted a resolution against Human Rights violations in Sri Lanka. However, this is not the first resolution about Human Rights violations in Sri Lanka. The UNHRC earlier had adopted the 30/1 resolution in 2015. The then Sri Lankan government accepted the resolution and started working on it.
But since the swearing-in of the new government in Sri Lanka, Human Rights went on downhill. This led to the recent resolution. United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet is appointed to collect evidence of war crimes.
Though the UNHRC resolution is not legally binding, its implications are numerous. In this article, we will discuss the details of the UNHRC resolution and its implications on Sri Lanka.
Reasons behind UNHRC Resolution against Sri Lanka
A Civil War broke out in Sri Lanka in 1983. The Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan government tried to control the insurgent group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). While the LTTE aimed to establish a separate state for the Tamil Minority people in Northern Sri Lanka.
The civil war lasted for 26-year and ended in 2009 with the defeat of LTTE. Both the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil rebels committed atrocities in the war. According to some estimates, at least 1,00,000 people died during the civil war.
The domestic and international human rights groups including the UNHRC report highlighted the Human Rights violation by the Sri Lankan government even after the war, such as,
- The government is using state forces for murdering, torturing, forcing critics to disappear.
- The 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 2010 provided dictatorship powers to the Sri Lankan President. The powers include,
- Re-elections any number of times,
- President can appoint/dismiss members of Independent commissions and Judiciary, etc
The 30/1 resolution and the aftermath
To curb the HR violations in Sri Lanka UNHRC adopted the 30/1 resolution or the consensus resolution in 2015. The resolution aimed to establish reconciliation, accountability, and human rights in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government accepted the resolution under the new President and took the following steps, like,
- Establishing a credible judicial process. Under this, the Sri Lankan government allowed participation of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, etc. This was to ensure proper adjudication of Human Rights Violations. (This is in line with the 30/1 resolution)
- Enactment of 19th Amendment to Nullify the powers provided to President under 18th Amendment.
But the new government in 2020, changed the progression. Recently under the new Presidency, the government withdrew its commitments under the resolution 30/1. Further, the new Sri Lankan government also stated that the resolution was not in conformity with the Constitution of Sri Lanka.
About the recent resolution on Human Rights Violation
A UN High Commissioner’s report highlighted Human Rights Violations in Sri Lanka. Its findings include
- Increasing militarization in Sri Lanka
- Intensified surveillance against rights defenders and NGOs,
- Interference with trials in certain symbolic cases from the past, etc.
Recently the UNHRC conducted its 46th session. During this, the UNHRC adopted a resolution titled “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka”. The resolution mentioned certain important points. Such as,
- The human rights situation in Sri Lanka deteriorated under the current administration.
- Further, the resolution also mentions that the rights defenders and ethnic and religious minorities are facing problems in Sri Lanka.
The resolution was adopted after the 22 states of the 47-member Council Voted in Favour. However, 11 countries including Bangladesh, China, and Pakistan voted against the resolution. On the other hand, 14 countries, including India, Indonesia, Japan, and Nepal abstained.
Impact of the UNHRC resolution
The UNHRC resolution is not a legally binding one. So there is no legal obligation on Sri Lanka to follow the resolution. But the resolution has a great moral significance. This includes,
- Deterioration of Country’s image in front of Global community. The resolution signals to other global countries that the government of Sri Lanka is not a credible member in fulfilling its obligations.
- Sanctions by individual countries: The countries that voted in favour of the resolution may impose any sanctions or withdraw any benefits provided to Sri Lanka.
For example, The European Union supported the resolution can withdraw the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) given to Sri Lanka.
- Justice in the future: Post-resolution, the UNHCR collects, consolidates, and preserves evidence of Human Rights violations. It also allows the development of strategies to ensure future accountability. Apart from that, the UNHCR can also make recommendations to the international community on preventing any future Human Rights violations.
Other examples of UNHRC resolutions
The UNHRC aims to promote and protect human rights around the globe. Apart from that, they usually adopt a resolution to condemn, investigate alleged human rights violations in countries. The previous few resolutions include,
- In 2018, the UNHRC resolution demanded the prosecution of Myanmar generals for committing genocide against the Rohingya Muslims.
- Various times the UNHRC undertook resolutions to condemn the Human Rights violation by Israel in Palestine. For example in the recent 46th session also there were four resolutions related to Israel.
India’s Stand on Human Rights Violations in Sri Lanka
India never supported the Human Rights Violations in Sri Lanka. But at the same time, India wants the solution to the issue to be internal and not the forced one like the 30/1 resolution. For example, India in 2012 supported a credible investigation into human rights violations.
Sri Lanka requested India’s support in the recent UNHRC resolution. But, India abstains from the recent UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka. India’s stand include,
- India has emphasised meaningful decentralization to meet Tamil aspirations. Also, India demanded the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka.
- India’s concerns in Sri Lanka have been different from the rest of the international community. India is well-informed by a sense of the long-term well-being of the Tamils. Hence, India stresses devolution rather than accountability.
- India has its own limitations in expressing disappointment over Sri Lanka’s stand on Human Rights violations. Increasing Chinese presence in the Sri Lankan region is one of such reasons.
- India always supported the implementation of the 13th Amendment of 1987. The 13th Amendment is the outcome of the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987. This takes a middle stand on the Sri Lankan civil war. Under this amendment, the creation of Provincial Councils was encouraged. The council maintains the power-sharing arrangement between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. To date, the 13th amendment was the only constitutional provision on the settlement of the long-pending Tamil question.
The recent UNHRC resolutions provide moral sanctions on Sri Lanka. Since the moral sanctions are internal and vary from person to person, the implementation lies completely with the President of Sri Lanka only. But, International pressure can change Human Rights Violations in any country. So, neutral governance of countries and International pressure during violations are necessary to eliminate the human rights violation in the world.