G Pramod Kumar
The Indian government seems to have been successful in watering down the proposed second US resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC.
The revised US draft, which was tabled on Monday, is much softer and “there is a lot of evidence to clearly show the imprint of Indian influence,” said G Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive of Amnesty International in India.
“There is a significant downgrading of the international community’s concerns regarding human rights violations in Sri Lanka,” he said. Compared to the original draft, the demand for an international investigation has been given up and now the onus to set up a mechanism for investigation in on Sri Lanka.
This is a significant departure from the international community’s tough stand on Sri Lanka ahead of the discussion on the resolution at the UNHRC session on 22 March.
The Amnesty called it a “massive setback” for the campaign for justice in Sri Lanka and a “massive victory for Indian diplomacy and Sri Lanka” since it significantly downgraded the international community’s concerns.
The other changes that dilute the resolution are these:
1. Government of Sri Lanka has been replaced with “each State” thereby making it a general observation than being specific to Sri Lanka.
2. Three new paragraphs that support Sri Lanka have been inserted into the revised draft.
3. The new text welcomes the announcement by the Government of Sri Lanka to hold elections to the Provincial Council in the Northern Province in September 2013
4. New text also refers to rebuilding infrastructure in Northern Sri Lanka and how LLRC report can be the basis of national reconciliation.
As Amnesty charges, the revisions certainly show “the imprint of Indian influence” and “sets the tone” for the rest of the draft. Encouraging Government of Sri Lanka to investigate the alleged crimes and rights abuses takes the sting out of the resolution.
International community and the UNOHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights) had wanted an independent international investigation. Even the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay had raised this demand. This demand made its way into the original resolution.
India, on the other hand, has maintained that such an investigation should come from within Sri Lanka itself. The revised draft reflects India’s position.
Although in principle it might sound right, in the case of Sri Lanka, it amounts to colluding with a state that is accused of not only war crimes, but also reneging on its commitment to its citizens and international community. As recent reports by OHCHR and Human Rights Watch showed, instances of abductions, disappearances, rights-abuses and torture continued unabated in Sri Lanka even in 2012.
Despite heaps of evidence of rights abuses and war crimes during the last four years, the country has done precious nothing to fix accountability. Giving it more time and the same responsibility that it misused time and time again is a severe setback for rights activists and the international community.
Karunanidhi’s withdrawal of support to the UPA looks certainly compelled by this development. Aligning with the Congress, which is doing the bidding for Sri Lanka, will be suicidal for any party in Tamil Nadu. He could have got wind of the Indian intervention this morning and perhaps that is why he hurriedly convened a press conference and announced his pull-out.
It was India that reportedly diluted the text of the last resolution at UNHRC making the whole exercise inefficient. Since Sri Lanka has done nothing to honour even a non-biding resolution, the US decided to move a second resolution with tougher text. The original draft of this resolution was indeed stronger and would have been really bad for Sri Lanka.
In the second resolution, the most significant – and clearly the most worrisome for Sri Lanka – was the call for an international investigation and what is called a “truth-seeking mechanism” suggested by the OHCHR. It also asked for unfettered access to special rapporteurs of the UN. Further, it supported OHCHR intervention in Sri Lanka. Both the call for investigation and the entire text on the access to rapporteurs have been deleted in the revised draft.
Wherever there is a mention of international investigation, it has been meticulously deleted.
Besides all this, it expressed concern at the ongoing violation of human rights, non-implementation of the LLRC recommendations. It even went a step ahead saying LLRC report did not adequately address the rights concerns.
The revised draft will make the entire UNHRC process completely perfunctory, yet again. it’s indeed puzzling why and how the US agreed for such drastic revisions. Perhaps Indian diplomacy is much more influential than we all think.