Sri Lanka to face crucial vote in Geneva UNHRC tomorrow, March 22


Sri Lanka will face a crucial vote on a fresh Resolution moved by the UK, Canada and Germany along with other states at the UN Human Rights Council tomorrow.

The Government has reached out to regional friends India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, the countries which yield voting rights at the HRC, to garner support to defeat the Resolution, which the Government termed as a political move and an interference with the internal affairs of the country.

The country has also been lobbying friendly nations of the 47 members represented in Geneva at their capitals and in Colombo.

However, India has not made a formal commitment on its stance over the resolution so far, whereas 20 countries including Pakistan, China, Russia and the Philippines backed Sri Lanka during the Human Rights Council’s ongoing session, some criticising the latest report of the UN Human Rights High Commissioner which called for tougher action by member states and the Council against the country.

When the first country specific Resolution was moved against Sri Lanka in 2012, which was successfully shot down by Colombo at that time, India voted against Sri Lanka while during a similar move in 2014 Delhi decided to remain non-committal.

In 2015, Sri Lanka, under the former Government, co-sponsored a Resolution committing itself to a series of obligations, including some that the Constitution did not provide legal space. The present Government citing the electoral mandate and the Constitutional restrictions, therefore, withdrew from the co-sponsorship in March 2019.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa held a telephone conversation with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 13. The Indian High Commission in Colombo in a twitter message said, during the dialogue “Cooperation on multilateral platforms” was also discussed, indicating that the Human Rights Council vote on Monday would have been a key discussion point.

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Friday responding to journalists at the Foreign Ministry said, “The allegations of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka by several countries including the UK, Canada and Germany is an action taken for political purposes,” adding that these allegations were not based on true facts”.

“Over the years, various allegations have been levelled against our country, alleging human rights abuses. We have been cautious about this. After our Government was elected, a Presidential Commission was appointed to investigate human rights allegations. Funds have been allocated from the Budget to activate the Office on Missing Persons. While the present Government was taking a number of such positive steps, it was not fair to ignore it and accuse us repeatedly in various ways at the Human Rights Council in Geneva,” the Minister also said.

“We will try to defeat the false accusations levelled against us. Many friendly countries have joined hands with us towards this end. We hope that India too, will support us this time,” Minister Gunawardena added.

The UNHRC is holding its 46th regular sessions from February 22 to March 23 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva with member states taking part virtually due to Covid-19 health risks.

The Resolution on Sri Lanka is co-sponsored by Canada, Germany, Malawi, Montenegro, North Macedonia, The United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. Thirty-five other countries including the US and Australia are backing it. But only 12 of those countries have voting rights at the Council this year.