Sri Lanka notifies UN about rights resolution withdrawal

Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena (R) and Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn (L) pose for photographs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo on January 31, 2020. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP)  

Sri Lanka on Wednesday formally notified the UN Human Right Council that it was withdrawing from the UN resolution on post-war accountability and reconciliation.

“I wish to place on record, Sri Lanka’s decision to withdraw from co-sponsorship of Resolution 40/1 on Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka,” Minister of Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunawardena said in Geneva. All the same, Sri Lanka was “committed” to achieving “sustainable peace and reconciliation”, through a process designed and executed domestically, the Minister assured.

However, Sri Lanka cannot pull out of the resolution until 2021, according to former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, whose unity government helmed by President Maithripala Sirisena co-sponsored the resolution. “We are co-sponsors till the end of the resolution, which is in 2021. You can’t just pull out. After 2021, you can decide whether you want to co-sponsor the next resolution or not,” Mr. Wickremesinghe told The Hindu in Bengaluru, on the side-lines of ‘The Huddle’, the newspaper’s recently-held annual thought conclave.

The UNHRC is yet to comment on the development.

Accusing the predecessor government of “violating all democratic principles of governance”, the Foreign Relations Minister on Wednesday told the Council that Sri Lanka co-sponsoring the resolution “remains to date a blot on the sovereignty and dignity of Sri Lanka”.

‘Pawn on chess board’

The commitments made bound the country to carry out an “impractical, unconstitutional and undeliverable” process, Mr. Gunawardena said, adding that they had made Sri Lanka “a pawn on the chess board of global politics”.

Mr. Gunawardena’s statement at the High-Level Segment at the ongoing UNHRC session follows President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s earlier announcements that Sri Lanka would not honour Colombo’s commitments to the Council. “We will always work with the UN, but I can’t recognise what they [UN] have signed with past governments,” Gotabaya Rajapaksa told the media during his campaign.

In 2015, six years after Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war ended, the UNHRC adopted a consensus resolution, asking Colombo to probe allegations of large-scale rights abuses. The resolution, which Sri Lanka co-sponsored, was at that time widely seen as a bold commitment to Sri Lankans and the international community.

Amid Tamil leaders’ growing concern over the pace at which Colombo implemented the resolution, Sri Lanka in 2017 sought an extension for two more years to fulfil its commitments. Last year, the Council approved giving another two years for Sri Lanka to take forward a credible probe into the alleged rights violations.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 8:08:54 PM |

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