The sessions will continue till March 23.
Asked whether the Sri Lankan delegation now in Geneva would reach an agreement with the US regarding the strongly-worded resolution, Minister Peiris said that the government’s position on the particular issue wasn’t negotiable. The Sri Lankan delegation included parliamentarian, Sajin de Vass Gunawardena and Additional Secretary to the Ministry of External Affairs, Mrs Shenuka Seneviratne.
When pointed out that some Geneva-based diplomatic missions of countries represented at the UNHRC had been told of Sri Lanka having a covert dialogue with the US regarding the resolution, Prof. Peiris said perhaps an attempt was being made to mislead members of the UNHRC.
A senior delegation official told The Island that the government was in the process of informing member states of the ongoing attempt to persuade them to either vote against Sri Lanka or abstain claiming Sri Lanka was having a secret dialogue.
The HRC consists of five regional groups, namely: African States (Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Djibouti, Libya, Mauritania, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda), Latin American and Caribbean states (Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay), Asian states (Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, the Maldives, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Thailand), Western Europe and other states (Austria, Belgium, Italy, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, United States) and Eastern European states (Russia, Rumania, Czech Republic, Poland and Moldova).
US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton in a letter dated Jan. 25 warned Prof. Peiris of the impending US move. Having leaked the Secretary of State’s confidential letter to a section of the Colombo-based media, the US was now alleging the Sri Lankan government released it to the media, government sources said. “The bottom line is that the External Affairs Ministry didn’t release Clinton’s letter,” delegation sources said.
Sources said that during previous sessions, the US unsuccessfully campaigned against a report published by the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza. The mission consisted of four persons led by South African Richard Goldstone. The report released in Sept. 2009 dealt with Gaza conflict (Dec 2008 to Jan. 2009).
The US House of Representatives in November 2009 passed a non binding resolution with an overwhelming majority condemning the report. Altogether 334 representatives voted in favour of the resolution asking the Obama administration to oppose the report, while 36 voted against it. Twenty two abstained.
During the 13th sessions of the UN Human Rights Council sessions in March, 2010, the US voted against a Human Rights Council resolution ‘Follow-up to the report of the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict’ that establishes “a committee of independent experts” charged with monitoring compliance with the Goldstone Report. The US received the backing of Hungary, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Italy and Ukraine. France, Norway and the UK were among those who skipped the vote.
Of the 47-member UN Human Rights Council, 29 countries supported the resolution, six opposed, 11 abstained and one was absent at the time of the voting.
The Geneva vote was preceded by the UN adopting a resolution on the Goldstone report in Feb. 2010. In spite of heavy lobbying by the US, the draft resolution was adopted by a record vote of 98 in favor to 7 against (including Israel), with 31 abstentions. The US and Canada were among the countries which opposed the resolution.
The UN had adopted another resolution on the Goldstone report in November 2009. The draft resolution endorsing the Goldstone report was adopted by a record vote of 114 in favor to 18 against, with 44 abstentions. Among those who opposed the resolution were Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and United States.
In the wake of Goldstone releasing his report in Sept. 2009, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the ‘human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian Territory and East Jerusalem’ and ‘Goldstone report.’ The UN Human Rights Council adopted the resolution with 25 countries voting for it, while six governments, including Italy, the Netherlands and the US rejected it.
In April last year, Goldstone, who headed the UN inquiry, disputed his own findings in an Op-Ed in the Washington Post.
Goldstone made his controversial move in the wake of the Human Rights Council voting to send the report to the U.N. General Assembly with the recommendation that the U.N. Security Council turned it over to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in the Hague for possible prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
By Shamindra Ferdinando in Geneva