Terming the success of the resolution against Sri Lanka “a cynical negation of the purposes for which the Human Rights Council was established,” Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris contended that “the most distressing feature” was that the voting was determined “not by the merits of a particular issue but by the strategic alliances and domestic political issues in other countries, which have nothing to do with the subject matter of the resolution.”

Despite Sri Lanka not making any progress on accountability or human rights issues — apart from the issue of granting political rights to the Tamils in the Northern Province, almost three years after the end of the war — Prof. Peiris chose to blame “domestic political issues” — a direct reference to the pressure applied by Tamil Nadu political parties — for the debacle at the UNHRC.

The Sri Lankan argument has been that the report of the committee that went into the causes of the war — the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report — was submitted only in December last year and since then, Sri Lanka had appointed three committees to implement its recommendations.

Thanking countries that voted against the U.S. resolution, Prof. Peiris said that it was a “matter of great satisfaction” that they voted “despite the intensity of pressure, in a variety of forms, exerted on them.” He also thanked the eight countries “which, by abstaining, declined to support the Resolution.”

“Narrow margin”

Taking their absence as a positive vote, he said the final result was that 23 countries, out of a total of 47 members of the Council, did not support the Resolution, while 24 supported it. “The margin was as narrow as this. Many countries which voted with Sri Lanka were acutely conscious of the danger of setting a precedent which enables ad hoc intervention by powerful countries in the internal affairs of other nations. This is a highly selective and arbitrary process not governed by objective norms or criteria of any kind. The implications of this were not lost on many countries,” he said.

According to a statement issued by the U.S. embassy in Colombo, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S., and the international community had “sent a strong signal that Sri Lanka will achieve lasting peace only through real reconciliation and accountability, and the international community stands ready to help. The next steps are clear.”

The U.S. wants Sri Lanka to implement the constructive recommendations of the LLRC and take measures to address accountability issues. “We are committed to working with the Sri Lankan government to help realise this goal, and I look forward to discussing future actions with Foreign Minister Peiris soon,” Ms. Clinton said.

One of the first non-governmental organisations to welcome the vote, the Asian Human Rights Council said the vote should “pave the way for a new period of commitment to cure the wounds of a long conflict, caused upon individuals as well as on the institutional structure of democracy and the rule of law in Sri Lanka.”

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