© Reuters. Media conference with UNHRC resolution to document the war crimes in Sri Lanka in Colombo
From Alasdair Pal
(Reuters) – UN human rights leader Michelle Bachelet was given a mandate Tuesday to gather evidence of crimes during Sri Lanka’s long civil war that ended in 2009 with the defeat of the separatist Tamil Tigers and an increase in civilian deaths. [L8N2LL3PG]
Human rights groups said the decision is a critical step in bringing about justice for victims of war crimes and could have a significant impact on the current Sri Lankan government.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
WHAT DOES THE RESOLUTION ALLOW?
The resolution enables the United Nations to “collect, consolidate, analyze and retain information and evidence and develop possible strategies for future accountability processes for gross human rights violations or serious violations of international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka, to advocate for victims and survivors and in support of relevant judicial and other proceedings. “
A $ 2.8 million budget was also allocated to hire investigators to work on evidence collection.
WHAT COULD IT MEAN FOR SRI LANKA?
The resolution is a “heavy blow” to the Sri Lankan government, including President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who served as the country’s chief war defense officer, said Yasmin Sooka, a lawyer involved in the persecution of several Sri Lankan war figures, including Rajapaksa.
Bachelet’s office will likely take several months to build a team, and gathering evidence will be a long process, Sooka said.
“I do not expect any cooperation from the Sri Lankan government,” said Rajiv Bhatia, a distinguished contributor to the Indian foreign policy think tank Gateway House.
The time that has passed since the end of the war will also make it difficult to collect evidence, he added.
WHAT DOES SRI LANKA SAY?
Sri Lanka has emphatically rejected the resolution. Foreign Secretary Dinesh Gunewardena said the resolution was unauthorized because the nations that voted for it were fewer than those who voted against or abstained.
“The resolution was brought by countries backed by Western powers that want to dominate the global south,” he said.
The UN envoy from Sri Lanka, CA Chandraprema, described the text as “unhelpful and divisive” as it was not passed unopposed and with strong objections by its allies, including China and Russia.
Who voted for it?
The 47-member Human Rights Council passed the resolution with 22 votes in favor, 11 against and 14 abstentions.
For: Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahamas, Brazil, Bulgaria, Ivory Coast, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, France, Germany, Italy, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Ukraine, United States, Kingdom and Uruguay.
Against: Bangladesh, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Somalia, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.
India, Indonesia, Japan and Nepal were among the Abstainees.
The abstentions, also from the neighbors India and Nepal as well as some friendly Islamic countries, were a blow to Colombo and could disrupt relations.
“They are looking brave … (but) Colombo went out of their way to get India to support them,” Bhatia said, adding that this could test an already strained relationship between the countries.