The UK fired the first salvo at Sri Lanka at the 19th sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) yesterday.
UK’s Foreign Office Minister responsible for the human rights portfolio Jeremy Browne, MP, emphasized the responsibility on the part of the global community to intervene in Sri Lanka unless the government addressed accountability issues. Parliamentarian Browne called for UN intervention to support change in Sri Lanka.
As Browne was speaking several hundred LTTE activists protested outside the venue demanding international war crimes inquiry against Sri Lanka. They displayed LTTE flags, though it was a proscribed organization in over 30 countries, including the UK and the US.
Browne said: “We, as UN member states, must take seriously our human rights obligations and, where States fail, the institutions of the UN should act and support change. Such actions are what make the Council an effective human rights body, able to scrutinize States’ compliance with their obligations and offer technical assistance.”
In an obvious reference to the anti-Sri Lanka resolution, which the US intended to move in the UNHRC during the sessions continuing till March 23, Browne said that he hoped the Sri Lankan government would see that it was in this spirit of support and co-operation that countries wanted it to implement the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). Both UK and EU support the US resolution.
The UK also referred to the situation in Iran, Burma and North Korea, while launching a massive attack on Syria. Browne vowed to work with British allies to punish those responsible for human rights violations in Syria. While declaring that a Commission of Inquiry appointed by the UNHRC had a compiled a confidential list of suspects, Browne said that the UK and its partners in the international community would ensure that there wouldn’t be impunity for violations and abuses of human rights perpetrated in Syria.
The UK is not a member of the UNHRC consisting of 47 countries categorized into five separate blocks. Browne said that the UK would campaign for election to the UNHRC.
Browne also praised UN High Commissioner for HR Navi Pillay for ensuring that the global community’s focus on Syria and elsewhere. He reiterated UK commitment to support Pillay’s office to protect and promote human rights around the world.
In her address, Pillay stressed the importance of the UNHRC being even-handed in its approach. Although the UNHRC had addressed some situations of serous human rights violations, there were other situations which merit its urgent consideration.
Pillay didn’t make a direct reference to Sri Lanka.
However, the South African impressed on the urgent need to develop a mechanism to tackle governments, including those members of the UNHRC, which failed to cooperate with the council, its subsidiary mechanisms, other United Nations bodies and her office.
By Shamindra Ferdinando in Geneva