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Human Rights Council adopts a resolution on reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka

Human Rights Council  
MIDDAY

27 March 2014

Requests High Commissioner to Undertake a Comprehensive Investigation intoAlleged Serious Human Rights Violations in Sri Lanka  
 
The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting adopted a resolution in which it requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka. 
 
The Council adopted by a vote of 23 in favour, 12 against and 12 abstentions, a resolution in which it requested the Office of the High Commissioner to undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and to establish the facts and circumstances of such alleged violations and of the crimes perpetrated with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability, with assistance from relevant experts and special procedures mandate holders. 
 
The Council also adopted a decision in which it decided to postpone the renewal of the mandate of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances until its twenty-seventh session. 
 
France, United States, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Mauritius spoke in introduction of resolutions.

Speaking in general comments were Italy (on behalf of the European Union), Montenegro and United Kingdom.

Speaking in explanation of the vote before or after the vote were Pakistan, Venezuela, China, Russia, Maldives, Indonesia, Cuba, Montenegro, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Japan, and Brazil.

United Kingdom and Pakistan spoke in right of reply.
 
Sri Lanka spoke as the concerned country.

The next meeting of the Council will be at 3.15 p.m. this afternoon when it will continue to take action on remaining decisions and resolutions.
 
Action on Decision under Agenda Item on Organizational Matters and Decisions
 
Action on Decision on Postponement of Renewal of Mandate of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
 
In a resolution (A/HRC/25/L.4) on postponement of the renewal of the mandate of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, adopted without a vote, the Council decided, in an effort to synchronize schedules for resolutions, mandates and the presentation of reports by the special procedures of the Council, to postpone the renewal of the mandate of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to its twenty-seventh session, and, for that reason, to extend, on an exceptional basis, the mandate of the Working Group until that session.
 
France, introducing draft decision L.4 on the postponement of the renewal of the mandate of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, said that its aim was to postpone the renewal to the twenty-seventh session of the Council, when the Council would have to deliver an opinion on a new three-year renewal.  France restated how important the mandate of the Working Group was.  It had done some exceptional work.  The sponsors thanked all delegations that had supported the text.  It was hoped that the draft decision would be adopted by consensus.
Draft decision L.4 was adopted without a vote. 
 
Action on Resolution under Agenda Item on Annual Report of the High Commissioner, Reports of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General
 
Action on Resolution on Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability, and Human Rights in Sri Lanka
 
In a resolution (A/HRC/25/L.1/Rev.1) on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, adopted by a vote of 23 in favour, 12 against and 12 abstentions, the Council requests the Office of the High Commissioner to undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and to establish the facts and circumstances of such alleged violations and of the crimes perpetrated with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability, with assistance from relevant experts and special procedures mandate holders.  The resolution also requests the High Commissioner to present an oral update to the Council at its twenty-seventh session, and a comprehensive report followed by a discussion on the implementation of the present resolution at its twenty-eighth session.  The Council reiterates its call upon the Government of Sri Lanka to implement effectively the constructive recommendations made in the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission; and calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to release publicly the results of its investigations into alleged violations by security forces, including the attack on unarmed protesters in Weliweriya on 1 August 2013, and the report of 2013 by the court of inquiry of the Sri Lanka Army.
 
The result of the vote was as follows:
 
In favour (23): Argentina, Austria, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Montenegro, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Sierra Leone, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, and United States of America.
 
Against (12): Algeria, China, Congo, Cuba, Kenya, Maldives, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and Viet Nam.
 
Abstentions (12): Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Morocco, Namibia, Philippines, and South Africa.
 
Before the vote on the resolution, the Council voted on a no-action motion on the resolution, rejecting it by a vote of 16 in favour, 25 against and 6 abstentions. 
 
The Council also voted on a motion to delete operative paragraph 10 L./Rev.1 (Rule 129), and voted to keep the paragraph in the resolution, by a vote of 23 in favour, 14 against and 10 abstentions.

The result of the vote was as follows:
 
In favour (23): Argentina, Austria, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Montenegro, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Sierra Leone, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, and United States of America.
 
Against (14): Algeria, China, Congo, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Maldives, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and Viet Nam.
 
Abstentions (10): Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Morocco, Namibia, Philippines, and South Africa.
 
United States, introducing draft resolution L.1/Rev.1 on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, said that the resolution highlighted that the human rights situation in Sri Lanka had continued to deteriorate, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual violence, repression to human rights defenders and violence against religious minorities.  The international community was also concerned at the lack of progress by Sri Lanka to ensure accountability for serious human rights and humanitarian law violations.  The resolution requested that the Office of the High Commissioner undertook a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights by both parties during the period covered by the report of the Government’s own Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. 
 
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, also introducing the resolution, said that Sri Lanka had yet to make significant progress to ensure reconciliation and accountability.  Human Rights Defenders were harassed in Sri Lanka.  The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was committed to cooperate with Sri Lanka to implement this resolution as well as recommendations made in the report by the Office of the High Commissioner. 
 
Mauritius, also introducing the resolution, said that it had a consistent position regarding the need for promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka.  The draft resolution called on Sri Lanka to respect to its commitments, and would help the national reconciliation process in Sri Lanka. 
 
Italy, in a general comment on behalf of the European Union, said that despite positive elements, limited progress had been made in addressing reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka.   It urged the Government to uphold its international obligations and implement the recommendation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.  It shared concern that domestic investigations to date into allegations of serious violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law had lacked credibility and had been insufficient.  All Members of the Council were called upon to support the adoption of the resolution.
 
Montenegro, in a general comment, said that it was aware of the need to address accountability, justice and reconciliation in the aftermath of a conflict and prerequisites were to establish the facts, and re-establish mutual trust.  Montenegro strongly believed that it was imperative for the international community to support this process.  By adopting the resolution, the Council would express the need for necessary steps to be taken and serve as a reminder of past human rights violations that had yet to be addressed.
 
United Kingdom, in a general comment, said that it was committed to supporting long term peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka and welcomed positive steps taken by Sri Lanka so far. However there was an important gap in those steps, a genuine process to determine the truth regarding allegations of war crimes and serious violations and abuses that took place during the conflict.  It was regretted that Sri Lanka had failed to take domestic action itself, despite two previous resolutions by the Council on doing so.  In the absence of action by the Government, the international community should support the clear call by the High Commissioner for an international investigation.
 
Sri Lanka, speaking as the concerned country, stressed that there was no urgent situation in Sri Lanka that warranted the Council’s continued attention.  It was ironic that with extensive domestic mechanisms in place, a resolution had been brought to the Council.  The draft resolution, if adopted, would not only constitute a serious breach of international law, but would create a dangerous precedent in the conduct of international relations and could pose a threat to the sovereignty and independence of Member States.  The resolution was also highly intrusive and politicised, and did not give due regard or recognition to significant progress made by Sri Lanka in different aspects of the reconciliation process, or the domestic mechanisms underway.  In the key operative paragraph, the resolution vested the Office of the High Commissioner with an investigative mandate in violation of Council resolution 60/251 and the institution-building package.  In addition to not having the mandate to conduct an investigation, the Office also lacked the capacity and resources to do so.   With the deliberate failure to specify a time period in operative paragraph 10 (b), the draft resolution may confine its ambit between 2002 and 2009, thus completely excluding the atrocities and violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam prior to 2002. 
 
The operative paragraph 10 (b), furthermore, as presently constituted, was structured in such a partisan manner as to exclude the alleged atrocities committed over the entire duration of the conflict.  Sri Lanka was disappointed to note that a key imperative driving this resolution was not genuine concern for the welfare of its people but electoral compulsions of some States at the behest of certain extreme elements with links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.  Sri Lanka appealed to the conscience of the Member States and, irrespective of the outcome, reiterated that the democratically elected Government of Sri Lanka would never countenance any return to armed conflict or terrorism.  The Government was committed to continue its ongoing process of reconciliation and national building.  The resolution eroded the sovereignty of the people of Sri Lanka, and the core values of the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the basic principles of law that postulated equality among all people.  Sri Lanka requested members of the Council to reject the resolution by vote.
 
Pakistan, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that this approach on  the situation in Sri Lanka was counterproductive, and that any initiatives had to be taken with Sri Lanka’s cooperation.  Sri Lanka had a long tradition of democracy, and had succeeded in putting an end to terrorism.  Interference to the internal affairs of Sri Lanka was intolerable and in contradiction with the Charter of the United Nations.  An international investigation by the Office of the High Commissioner was a clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, and had unfortunate budget implications.  If this investigation should be funded by the countries supporting this resolution, this would be a serious breach to its impartiality.  Furthermore, the time period covered by this investigation was unclear and biased against Sri Lanka as it would not include abuses perpetrated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam prior to 2002.  Pakistan called for a vote for the deletion of operative paragraph 10 of this resolution. 
 
India, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka had provided an opportunity for peace and security.  India was supportive of Sri Lanka’s efforts for truth and reconciliation, as well as Sri Lanka’s cooperation with the United Nations.  Sri Lanka had made significant progress in the field of reconstruction and resettlement.  Sri Lanka had, however, failed to ensure accountability for all violations of human rights and humanitarian law.  India called for an investigation of all these allegations, including on cases of enforced disappearances.  India and Sri Lanka had a long cooperation history.  In asking the Office of the High Commissioner to investigate,  the resolution ignored progress already achieved in this field.  Sri Lanka should be provided all the cooperation it deserved.  Any external mechanism would not reflect the spirit of dialogue and cooperation of the Human Rights Council.  India would therefore abstain in the vote.   
 
Cuba, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that it supported the request made by Pakistan on operative paragraph 10.  Sri Lanka had shown genuine commitment to the promotion and protection of the human rights of its people.  Cuba said that some pretexts had been used to induce a need to submit the draft resolution.  Unfortunately, during this session the imposition of this and other biased initiatives had been seen and this was not needed.  A spirit of dialogue and cooperation was needed.  Cuba supported efforts made by the Government of Sri Lanka to press ahead for reconciliation and the promotion and protection of human rights.  Cuba could not support this politically motivated draft resolution and would vote against it.
 
Venezuela, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, categorically rejected initiatives such as this one.  They tarnished the work of the Council and were most often used against developing countries.  It was regretted that the co-sponsors had simply ignored the demonstrated efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka to comply with its human rights obligations since peace was restored in 2009.  Venezuela believed that the interventionist attempts into Sri Lanka’s domestic policies were unjustified and were attempts not based on cooperation or genuine dialogue, the cornerstones of the work of the Council.  It raised a warning about the very serious risk posed by resolutions such as this one.  The Universal Periodic Review was the appropriate forum for such discussions.  Venezuela would vote against the resolution.
 
Maldives, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, welcomed the efforts by Sri Lanka, adding that Maldives respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.  It noted with appreciation that Sri Lanka cooperated constructively with the United Nations.  It was important that the international community refrained from taking any initiatives that would have a negative impact on reconciliation in Sri Lanka. 
 
Indonesia, in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that reconciliation had to be undertaken openly and constructively.   Indonesia welcomed Sri Lanka’s efforts and cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms.   Indonesia believed that Sri Lanka had to make efforts towards accountability and improve its human rights situation with the support of the international community.  This draft resolution would undermine the efforts by Sri Lanka.  Indonesia would therefore abstain. 
 
Pakistan repeated that the funding for the resolution was significant and it was not clear where it was coming from; if it was coming from a country that sponsored the resolution, than that would taint the whole process.  If funding was not available, then no action on the resolution should be taken.
 
The President then read out appropriate provisions from the rules of procedure on the no-action motion.  The President than gave the floor to two countries supporting the no-action motion and two countries against it.
 
Cuba said it was in favour of the no-action motion.  No satisfactory response had been received indicating that resources were available for the implementation of the resolution, and there was no doubt that this would require significant funding, millions in fact.  Cuba supported the no-action motion.
 
Russia supported the proposal of Pakistan to postpone the action on this resolution.
 
United States said it opposed the no-action motion, and said that the procedure for this resolution’s budget implications was the same as for all other resolutions.  The main sponsors of this resolution had organized open consultations and had taken a range of views into account, including by Pakistan.  The Office of the High Commissioner had the full mandate to carry out investigations as it had already done in the past.  The investigation would be carried out on a time period that had been set by the Government of Sri Lanka itself.  The no-action motion was an ill-attempt to oppose this resolution. 
 
Montenegro said it opposed the no-action motion.  The Office of the High Commissioner had already carried out similar investigations on other situations.  Montenegro fully rejected the position of Pakistan regarding the lack of budget.  This resolution had been presented in full compliance with the Council’s rules of procedure, and had been negotiated openly.  Members who opposed this resolution were free to vote no or to abstain, but there was no reason to postpone its consideration. 
 
The Council then rejected the no-action motion by a vote of 16 in favour, 25 against and 6 abstentions. 
 
In a separate vote on the operative paragraph 10 L./Rev.1 (Rule 129), the Council decided to keep the paragraph in the resolution, by a vote of 23 in favour, 14 against and 10 abstentions.
 
China said that Sri Lanka had made significant progress in the promotion and protection of human rights and the promotion of stability and this deserved recognition and acknowledgement by the international community.  People had the right to choose their own path to development.  (President interrupts).  China requested a vote on the draft resolution L.1/Rev.1.
 
The Council then adopted the resolution with a vote of 23 in favour, 12 against and 12 abstentions.
 
China, speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that it profoundly regretted that it could not make an explanation of the vote before the vote.  In the view of China, Sri Lanka had spent more than a decade in conflict and had made commendable efforts to promote development for its people.  Co-sponsors of this resolution were interfering in the process of reconciliation and in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka.  Furthermore, the draft went against the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner.  China therefore had voted against this resolution. 
 
Mexico, speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said it had engaged in the negotiations constructively to ensure that the text was balanced.  Mexico therefore had voted in favour of the resolution, which would deepen the cooperation of Sri Lanka with the Office of the High Commissioner and the Human Rights Council.  The nature of the Office of the High Commissioner would ensure the independence and impartiality of its investigation of alleged violations in Sri Lanka.  Mexico called on Sri Lanka to fully cooperate in the implementation of this resolution.
 
Republic of Korea, speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that Sri Lanka had made important efforts on reconstruction and resettlement, which had to be appreciated.  The Republic of Korea underlined, however, that there was still room for improvement in terms of accountability, which was a necessity for true national reconciliation.  This resolution would support Sri Lanka in these efforts.  The Republic of Korea  called on Sri Lanka to fully cooperate in the implementation of this resolution.
 
South Africa, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that it had abstained on the vote.  South Africa had encouraged Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and had also supported the establishment of an efficient, inclusive and transparent mechanism to deal with human rights violations.  The people of Sri Lanka should speedily agree on a process that would allow for a meaningful political process that would bring about a constitution acceptable to all Sri Lankans.
 
Japan, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that it had maintained bilateral dialogue with Sri Lanka and believed that its continued engagement with this country had resulted in a number of commitments such as to hold the elections, to release the final report of the Presidential Commission on missing persons, and others.  It was unfortunate that the discussions on this resolution did not promote confidence building between parties.  Sri Lanka should do it utmost to cooperate with the international community, improve the human rights situation and achieve national reconciliation.
 
Cuba, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that it had voted against the resolution because of its political nature.  Cuba was entirely against the manipulation of the voting procedures and said that the President himself had violated the procedure twice today.  It was the duty of the secretariat to advise the President on the full implementation and interpretation of the rules of the procedure.
 
Russian Federation, in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said that this resolution interfered with Sri Lanka’s reconciliation process.  The resolution went beyond the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 
 
United Kingdom, speaking in a right of reply to allegations made by Pakistan that it had conducted torture while countering terrorism, rejected those allegations.  The United Kingdom was committed to protecting human rights while countering terrorism. 
 
Brazil, speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, acknowledged progress achieved by Sri Lanka, and recognized the enormous challenges countries faced after an armed conflict.  Brazil appreciated the willingness of Sri Lanka to engage with the United Nations human rights system.  Brazil however believed that steps remained to be taken in the field of accountability, reconciliation and reparation to the victims.  International support and cooperation were crucial to achieve these objectives.  
 
Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply concerning the right of reply of the United Kingdom, said that Pakistan had not made mention of any names and if delegations felt accusations were directed against them, then it was their guilty conscience talking.
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