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The adoption of UNHRC resolution with minimal opposition is an encouraging sign to promote human rights and accountability in Sri Lanka – GTF

The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) wholeheartedly welcomes the adoption of resolution 46/1 at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The Government of Sri Lanka rejected this resolution, however even all the neighbouring countries did not support that position.

It is significant that the majority of the Latin American countries and all of the European countries voted in favour of the resolution. Majority of the African countries, the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) and the Asian countries did not support the position taken by the Government of Sri Lanka.

It is particularly pleasing that the countries voted in favour cover all regions across the globe and several countries who would have traditionally voted against such a resolution recognised the criticality of the situation in Sri Lanka and decided to abstain. It is indeed encouraging for victims of human rights abuses across the world that UNHRC continues to offer hope, even if the process of seeking justice is painstaking and arduous.

The current process towards this important outcome commenced with the report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, which powerfully articulated that ‘Sri Lanka is on an alarming path towards recurrence of human rights violations’ and called for urgent action from the international community. The High Commissioner’s call was ably converted into resolution 46/1 by the core group of countries under the leadership of the UK, which in fact is a pragmatic outcome balancing the highly concerning developments in Sri Lanka with challenging geopolitical reality. Strengthening OHCHR’s capacity to collect, consolidate, analyse, and preserve information and evidence, and to develop possible strategies for future accountability processes, with sufficient budgetary and manpower support is a critical and welcoming new dimension in this resolution.

Tamils are grateful to the US Administration that initiated the original process of promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka in 2012.

GTF would like to express its appreciation and gratitude to all progressive forces that made this current outcome possible – the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, the core group of countries, all countries who voted for and/or co-sponsored the resolution, the countries that abstained without voting against the resolution, eminent persons and dedicated human rights organisations who championed the cause, and more importantly the victims of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka who despite the time elapsed and the risks involved, continue to provide inspiration by bravely fighting for human rights and accountability.

Tamils are grateful to the Government of India for supporting an escalation of the Tamil demand for equality, justice (accountability), dignity and peace at a multilateral international forum like the UNHRC. By specifying India’s support to the international community calling on the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfil its commitments to devolve political power to the Tamils and to allow those devolved powers to be operationalised effectively according to the 13th amendment of the constitution is very significant.

By making a public statement before the vote and by abstaining, India has clearly shown its displeasure with the lack of progress on addressing the alleged violations of human rights and international laws and the non-implementation of Sri Lanka’s numerous public commitments of the past in addressing the grievances of the Tamil people.

Tamils are grateful to the Tamil Nadu political parties particularly the DMK president M.K. Stalin for the recent statement calling on the Government of India not to support the Government of Sri Lanka by voting against the resolution.

Unlike in the previous years when the outcome at the UNHRC was eagerly sought by the Tamil community, the interests and expectations this year were much more widespread. The Muslim community, which was openly victimised through forced burials and expected burqa ban; the Christian community which is highly disappointed with the dishonest approach towards Easter bombing investigations, and indeed the majority community which is increasingly becoming unsettled with the authoritarian and militarised trajectory the country is adopting.

GTF believes this convergence of concerns, fears and apprehensions offer hope for all the people of Sri Lanka to come together as equal citizens and communities. Such progress is possible only when all communities stop living a lie based on denial but come to terms with the truth based on evidence. The UNHRC resolution just passed provides a useful framework to work towards such an outcome. We call upon people from all communities, important stakeholders of the country including the leaders of the government and opposition, to stop using the UNHRC initiative for short term political gains, but rather listen to the coherent and powerful voice of the international community, and adopt the parameters of this resolution willingly for the betterment of the country and its people. Government of Sri Lanka, by rejecting this resolution, is undoubtedly isolating itself from the international community.

PRESS STATEMENT/23 March 2021, London

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