U.N. report on Sri Lanka rights record deferred

To be presented in September; deferral to allow space for the new government to show its willingness to cooperate with on rights issues

February 17, 2015 01:54 am | Updated April 03, 2016 02:20 am IST - JAFFNA:

The U.N. Human Rights Council will defer the key report on Sri Lanka’s conflict, due in March, to September 2015.

In what appears to be a clear shift in stance, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Monday said he had made a recommendation to the Council “to delay the consideration of a long-awaited report into alleged human rights violations during the conflict in Sri Lanka for six months until September 2015.”

Earlier, while addressing the Council’s 27th session in September 2014, the High Commissioner said: “I attach great importance to the investigation on Sri Lanka mandated by this Council,” urging Sri Lanka to cooperate with the process in the interests of justice and reconciliation.

Alarmed at threats He had then said: “I am alarmed at threats currently being levelled against the human rights community in Sri Lanka, as well as prospective victims and witnesses,” also voicing concern over apparent threats on religious freedom in the island.

Less than six months later, during which time Sri Lanka witnessed a regime change, he said that deferring the report was the best option to allow space for the new government to show its willingness to cooperate on human rights issues.

Mr. Al Hussein pledged his “personal, absolute and unshakable commitment” that the report will be published by September. The Sri Lankan government — which under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had refused any cooperation — was now “prepared to cooperate”, he said.

The newly-formed Sri Lankan government, according to key sources in Colombo, has been lobbying Washington and New Delhi for support in Geneva. The United States, which backed the U.N. resolution, seems to have already softened its position.

Greater accountability Following a meeting with Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in Washington recently, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remarked that Sri Lanka’s January 8 election was a vote to “open up greater accountability and possibility for the preservation of human rights.” India too was keen on putting off the resolution in order to give the new government time.

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