Draft resolution on Lanka watered down

Last Updated 19 March 2013, 20:27 IST

The draft resolution that the US and 31 other countries moved at the United Nations Human Rights Council on the alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka has apparently been toned down in obvious attempts to ensure that it does not infringe on the sovereignty of the island nation.

The revised draft resolution says the UNHRC “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.”

The word “encourages” replaced “urges,” purportedly used in an earlier draft of the resolution.

The new draft does not directly call for an international investigation into the allegation of war crimes committed by Sri Lankan armed forces during the 2009 military crackdown on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. It, however, takes note of the call made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, for an international investigation. It does not accuse President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government in Colombo of “genocide” against Tamils.

“The revised US draft resolution is much softer in the context of the overwhelming volume of new evidence that has been unearthed since the 21st session of UNHRC last year,” said G Ananthapadmanabhan, chief executive of Amnesty International India. “There is a lot of evidence in this draft resolution to clearly show the imprint of Indian influence. There is a significant downgrading of the international community’s concerns regarding rights violations in Sri Lanka,” he added.

Notwithstanding the clamour from Tamil Nadu for India to take a hard-line stand against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC, New Delhi has all along been reluctant to support a resolution that infringes on the sovereignty of the island nation – ostensibly out of fear that it might be cited as a precedent to call for external intervention into India’s own trouble-spots like Kashmir, Manipur or Nagaland.

Working with the US

New Delhi is understood to have been in touch with Washington to tone down the resolution, which is a follow-up to the one the UNHRC adopted in March 2012. India had voted in favour of the resolution on Sri Lanka, but only after working with the US to make it “non-intrusive” and “non-judgmental”.

An earlier draft reportedly called upon Colombo to provide “unfettered access” to the UN Special Rapporteurs to assess the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. The revised draft, however, says that the UNHRC “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.”

The revised draft has certain new paragraphs to welcome the announcement by Colombo to hold elections to the provincial council in the Northern Province in September 2013, to acknowledge the progress made by it in rebuilding infrastructure, demining and resettling the majority of internally displaced persons, as well as to take note of the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and recognise its possible contribution to the process of national reconciliation in the island nation.

While New Delhi has not been averse to voting in favour of the resolution this year too, it has also been keen to ensure that it does not have to budge from its traditional stand of external intervention in any country.

Support and scepticism

The UPA government is not in a minority, we will support it.

BSP supremo

No one has pulled out, this is only to blackmail the government. It is stable.

Ram Gopal Yadav
Samajwadi Party leader

With the DMK withdrawing support tothe UPA and Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party breathing down its neck, early polls to the Lok Sabha are inevitable.

Sukhbir Singh Badal
Shiromani Akali Dal chief

The government is on the ventilator... It does not have a majority now. It should go.

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi
Vice president,

Let us not jump to any conclusion. DMK has said they would reconsider if Parliament passes a resolution on the Lankan Tamils issue.

Praful Patel
Vice president, NCP

Let me assure everyone that the stability of the government and the continuation of the government are not an issue...government is absolutely stable and enjoys majority in the Lok Sabha  

P Chidambaram
Union Finance Minister

(Published 19 March 2013, 15:23 IST)

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