Sri Lanka has agreed with the United States to adopt a “collaborative approach” with regard to a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions next month but there is still no text. Work on a draft document is likely to start in mid-September after the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) releases its investigative report on allegations of war crimes and other human rights abuses. The US has been the main co-sponsor of all resolutions since 2012 and it will float the first draft.
The OHCHR report will be presented to the Sri Lanka Government shortly and also presented to the UNHRC during its 30th sessions next month. On August 24, US Ambassador for Human Rights, Keith Harper, told the UNHRC that his Government plans to offer a new resolution on Sri Lanka. It would be a follow-up on the new Sri Lankan administration’s efforts “to promote reconciliation and accountability and on the release of the report of the OHCHR investigation request in HRC resolution 25/1″.
“We hope to work collaboratively with the new Government of Sri Lanka and key stakeholders on this text,” Mr. Harper said.
“The only factor we have agreed to is to adopt a collaborative approach at the 30th sessions of the Human Rights Council with regard to the resolution,” said Mahishini Colonne, the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson. “There is no draft text of a resolution at this point. The US delegation made a statement at the Organisational Session of the 30th HRC on August 24 in Geneva regarding the approach that will be followed, which is to work collaboratively with the new Government of Sri Lanka and key stakeholders on the text of the resolution.”
In an indication of where the US stands on the subject of a war crimes investigation, US Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Labour, Tom Malinowski, who accompanied US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, Nisha Biswal, on an official visit to Colombo earlier this week, was reported as saying that a domestic investigation must have the trust of the minorities. He said that it must be acceptable to both the people of Sri Lanka and the international community but “that it need not be a completely international process.”
US-SL resolution after release of HR chief’s report
The US – Sri Lanka collaborative resolution will be ‘crafted’ after the release of the UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report on accountability issues in Sri Lanka in September.
A spokesperson at the Ministry of External Affairs said President Maithripala Sirisena will be given a copy of the High Commissioner’s report sometime next month, before it is tabled at the 30th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. The report will incorporate the Sri Lanka Government’s inputs, before it is tabled.
“The thrust of the resolution will be based on the (recommendations) report of the Human Rights High Commissioner,” US Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Tom Malinowski, told media in Colombo, adding that the resolution will show Sri Lanka the way forward in dealing with accountability issues.
Once the report is made available to the President, Sri Lanka will respond outlining the recommendations that it would be taking on board and the progress it has made so far in the human rights front.
A resolution A/HRC/25/1, moved by the US and four others in March 2014, mandated the report ‘Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka’, by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Following the regime change post January 8, the Human Rights High Commissioner granted a onetime deferral of the report at the request of the Sri Lankan Government, much to the dismay of the Tamil Diaspora groups and Tamil political parties calling for an international inquiry into the alleged rights abuses during the final phase of the war.
Last week, Malinowski and US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Nisha Biswal, conveyed the US would help Sri Lanka promote a credible domestic mechanism through another resolution in Geneva. The domestic process is expected to be assisted by a team of international technical experts.
Malinowski also said, apart from the justice and accountability process, the US believed confidence building among Tamils can be achieved by actions such as returning land, releasing prisoners, working on demilitarization and changing the fundamental role of the military.