India abstains from voting on UNHRC resolution against Lanka

Last Updated 27 March 2014, 15:46 IST
India for the first time today abstained from voting on an "intrusive" US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC which adopted it by 23 votes in favour and sought an international inquiry into alleged war crimes in the last stages of conflict with the LTTE in 2009.

India along with 11 other countries abstained from voting while 12 other countries including Russia, China and Pakistan opposed the resolution.

In an explanation of vote by Permanent Representative of India to the UN Offices here, Dilip Sinha, said this resolution at the UN Human Rights Council imposes an "intrusive approach" of international investigative mechanism which was counterproductive apart from being "inconsistent and impractical".

This is for the first time India has abstained from the voting on the resolution - 'Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka'. All three times- 2009, 2012 and 2013 - India voted in favour of the resolutions.

He noted that unlike the resolutions in 2009, 2012 and 2013, this resolution asks the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to "investigate, assess and monitor" the alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka during the last phases of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which was an "intrusive" approach that undermines national sovereignty.

"It has been India's firm belief that adopting an intrusive approach that undermines national sovereignty and institutions is counterproductive. Any significant departure from the core principle of constructive international dialogue and cooperation has the potential to undermine efforts of Human Rights Council for promoting universal respect for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms,"  Sinha said.

Moreover, any external investigative mechanism with an open-ended mandate to monitor national processes for protection of human rights in a country, was not reflective of the constructive approach of dialogue and cooperation envisaged by earlier UN General Assembly resolutions, he added.

"As the closest neighbour with thousands of years of relations with Sri Lanka, we cannot remain untouched by developments in that country. Since the end of the armed conflict, India remains engaged in a substantial way in the relief, resettlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction process in Sri Lanka," the explanation of India's vote said.

"We have extended substantial assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka in its efforts for resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons, de-mining, education, connectivity, livelihood restoration, economic revival, etc. This has contributed towards return of a modicum of normalcy to the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka," it said. 

A UN report found up to 40,000 people may have been killed in the final phase of the nearly three decades-long war with the LTTE but the government disputes that figure.

The countries that abstained from voting along with India in the 47-nation body were Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Morocco, Namibia, Philippines and South Africa, the Colombo Page reported.

The countries that voted against the resolution are Algeria, China, Congo, Cuba, Kenya, Maldives, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Venezuela and Vietnam.

The countries that voted in favour of the resolution included France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, UK and the US.

"India has always been of the view that the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka provided a unique opportunity to pursue a lasting political settlement, acceptable to all communities in Sri Lanka, including the Tamils," the explanation given of India's vote said.

"India believes that this Council's efforts should contribute to a state's own efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights. We are strongly supportive of Sri Lanka's continued engagement with the OHCHR," it said.

The UNHRC resolution expressed deep concern at reported intimidation and retaliation against civil society members who engage with UN human rights mechanisms, including those who met with High Commissioner Navi Pillay during her visit to Colombo.

It expressed serious concern at the continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, including sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, threats to judicial independence and the rule of law, as well as intimidation of and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society, lawyers and journalists.

The resolution expressed alarm at the significant surge in attacks against members of religious minority groups in Sri Lanka, including Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

It called upon the Sri Lankan government to fulfill 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.

The resolution noted that the national plan of action does not adequately address all of the findings and constructive recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

It encouraged Sri Lanka to increase its dialogue and cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner, including with regard to technical assistance. 
(Published 27 March 2014, 13:40 IST)

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