At the eleventh hour before a crucial United Nations Human Rights Council resolution calling on Sri Lanka to improve the post-war welfare of ethnic Tamils on the island, the U.S. appears to have watered down the text of that resolution.

Washington’s revised draft copy of the resolution, which was freely circulating on the Internet by Tuesday, in particular hinted at at least one major change from an earlier version: an entire paragraph calling for “unfettered access” in Sri Lanka by a host of external observers and specialists was deleted.

A second key change in the text appeared to be regarding UNHRC’s call for an external investigation into alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka, during the final phase of the combat between Sri Lankan forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in which many civilians were said to have been killed and injured.

In the paragraph that included a section calling for a “credible international investigation” into alleged human rights violations the U.S. appears to have rephrased the wording and elevated the request for an external investigation to a more prominent position in a previous section.

However in a paragraph immediately following this one, the U.S. draft then veers off towards an apparent preference for Sri Lanka to conduct its own internal investigation into alleged human rights violations.

In this second paragraph on the need for investigations the U.S. draft now reads, “... calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, as applicable...” The word “international” has been dropped.

At numerous points throughout the text of the revised draft weaker language has been inserted in place of a more condemnatory tone. For example where “Noting with concern...” has been used, the “with concern” phrase has been deleted. The phrase “Urges the Government of Sri Lanka” has been substituted with “Encourages the Government of Sri Lanka.”

Most obviously, in a segment alluding to “Noting with concern the failure of the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfil its public commitments, including on the devolution of political authority...” the revised U.S. draft text has inserted “Calling upon,” in place of “Noting with concern the failure of...”

In an early section that formerly stated that the UNHRC was “Reaffirming that it is the responsibility of the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of its entire population,” the reference to the Government of Sri Lanka was substituted with the phrase “each State.”

Further, affirmative statements “Welcoming and acknowledging the progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka,” on holding elections, rebuilding infrastructure and resettling internally displaced persons were inserted where none existed before.

In at least six places within the revised text, language that is unambiguously weaker than what was in the original text has been used. This does not include the insertion of positive statements recognising progress made nor a large number of other edits that make minor tweaks to various calls for Sri Lanka’s actions to be consistent with human rights laws.

G. Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive of Amnesty International in India, was quoted in media reports saying, “There is a significant downgrading of the international community’s concerns regarding human rights violations in Sri Lanka,” adding that there was a “massive setback” for the campaign for justice in Sri Lanka because “The draft resolution places the onus on Sri Lanka to set up a mechanism for a credible, independent investigation.”

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