Against all odds...:
Support for Sri Lanka at UNHRC
Sri Lanka, against all overwhelming odds, achieved a remarkable feat
when it secured 15 votes and managed to neutralise eight other nations
against the US Resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council
(UNHRC) Sessions in Geneva on Thursday.
Despite its influence through the European Union and various other
channels, the US could attract only 24 votes for its Resolution against
That narrow win was overshadowed by the humiliation the US suffered
on the Palestine issue at the UNHRC. Out of the 47 Member States of the
UNHRC, 46, in one voice, urged for the right of the Palestinian people
to self-determination, isolating the US.
Though the US managed to muster 24 votes for the Resolution against
Sri Lanka, it does not reflect the true and sincere view of those
countries. Certain countries in the European Union, though their
sentiments were with Sri Lanka, were compelled to vote for the US-led
Resolution, based on the collective responsibility of the EU.
Even most of the eight countries which abstained from voting, have
expressed their views in support of Sri Lanka. Some of them have
commended the reconciliation process and the development activities in
Sri Lanka’s North and the East.
Even India, which voted with the US for reasons better known to them,
interfered and got a clause of the US Resolution changed, respecting Sri
All these developments and the majority views of the Member Nations
of the UNHRC reflect that they were not in favour of the Resolution.
These views expressed by the representatives of the UNHRC member
countries speak the true support that Sri Lanka gained though the final
result was a classic example of might overruling right.
Those who voted in favour of the resolution(24): Austria, Belgium,
Benin, Cameroon, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Hungary,
India, Italy, Libya, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Poland,
Republic of Moldova, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, United States and
Those who voted against (15): Bangladesh, China, Congo, Cuba,
Ecuador, Indonesia, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritania, Philippines, Qatar,
Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Uganda.
Abstentions (8): Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Jordan,
Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia and Senegal.
Here are some of the views expressed by UNHRC member countries:
Cuba: Speaking against the resolution, the Cuban delegation said it
needs to address the legitimacy and credibility of the work of the
Council and would ask co-sponsors whether it would not be possible to
delay action on the Resolution until the September session.
“Three years ago, US President Barack Obama said he would close the
Guantanamo Bay detention centre, but that had not been done. It would
seem that this could be an arena for possible confrontation,” the Cuban
representative said and asked the co-sponsors to postpone the
Resolution, thereby avoiding any action that would undermine the
“The Resolution set a negative precedent that risked singling out
developing countries. The international community must allow space and
time to countries emerging from conflict. The mission of the Human
Rights Council was to provide technical assistance and cooperation to a
country and build capacity with the consent of the concerned country.
“If done differently, it would put in question the sovereignty and
independence of the concerned country. If the Council adopted the
Resolution on Sri Lanka, it would act contrary to the principle of
non-intervention. Sri Lanka cooperated with the High Commissioner and
the Special Procedures, which made the proposed Resolution inadmissible,
unjustified and unproductive”.
In an explanation of the vote before the vote on draft resolution,
Cuba reiterated its request for a nominal vote as the Resolution was
based on a blaming and shaming exercise. Cuba could not accept the fact
that only three years would be given to the program of action proposed
by the Government of Sri Lanka and regretted that the Council had not
recognised the progress made in the country, notably in dealing with
A double standard was being applied to Sri Lanka as the European
Union and the United States had used violence to carry out executions
and to attack civilian populations in other regions of the world with no
action being taken by the Human Rights Council. Detention centres,
secret flights and indiscriminate bombings by the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO) required an independent commission of investigation.
Cuba noted that 40 percent of arms sales between 1983 and 2009 to the
Sri Lankan Government had been made by the United States, the United
Kingdom and Israel. The Sri Lankan Government had cooperated with the
Human Rights Council and was committed to national reconciliation.
In a general comment on the draft resolution, China said
constructive dialogue and cooperation was the proper way to resolve
conflicts. The Resolution submitted by the United States was a product
of the politicisation of human rights. The reconciliation efforts of Sri
Lanka were beyond the mandate of the Human Rights Council.
Sri Lanka required the assistance of the international community. The
draft resolution interfered in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka and
violated the principles of the United Nations. The international
community should provide the Government with sufficient time and space
to complete the national reconciliation process, China said and called
on all Member States to reject the draft resolution.
China, speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said
attempts to interfere in the national reconciliation process and
internal affairs of Sri Lanka were against the United Nations Charter
and norms of international relations.
In an explanation of the vote before the vote on the draft
resolution, Ecuador’s representative said that despite the number of
violations of human rights and regardless of who had committed them, the
Human Rights Council should not take a biased approach. The situation of
human rights in Sri Lanka would improve to the benefit of minorities and
the population in general.
The Government was following the recommendations of the Lessons
Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and would inform the Council of the
results of the investigations of past human rights violations in Sri
Lanka’s next Universal Periodic Review.
The situation of human rights in Afghanistan and Iraq should be
investigated, they said.
Russian Federation: In an explanation of the vote before the vote on
the draft resolution, the Russian Federation representative said that
the process of national reconciliation in Sri Lanka should be carried
out by the Government of Sri Lanka without interference from outside
forces. The international community should not make hasty and
The Russian Federation remained firm in its position that country
situations could be considered in the Council only with the agreement of
the State concerned and attempts to dictate to a sovereign State on how
policy should be carried out was unacceptable.
In an explanation of the vote before the vote, Thailand
representative said that Thailand had always attached much importance to
accountability and the fight against impunity as well as to engagement,
cooperation and dialogue with the country concerned. Sri Lanka had shown
a clear willingness to cooperate. For the moment, the home-grown process
should be prioritised.
So far, Sri Lanka had shown its willingness to cooperate with the
Council. For these reasons, Thailand would vote against the Resolution.
Thailand urged the Sri Lankan Government to implement, without delay,
the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
Philippines: In an explanation of the vote before the vote on the
resolution, the Philippines delegation said the Philippines opposed the
introduction of a trigger mechanism in the Council and attempts to turn
technical assistance into a form of political pressure to influence
This Resolution was a reincarnation of the trigger
mechanism and it attempted to turn international cooperation into a form
of political pressure.
Uganda: In an explanation of the vote before the vote on Resolution,
the Uganda delegation noted the speedy publication of the Lessons Learnt
and Reconciliation Commission report, the progress made in implementing
the Report’s recommendations and the Government’s engagement with the
international community and the Human Rights Council.
resolution denied a reasonable time to be accorded to the Government of
Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and
Reconciliation Commission report.
Special consideration should be given
to transitional countries emerging from war if their governments
demonstrated a clear intention and roadmap to address post-war
situations, they said.
Maldives: In an explanation of the vote before the vote, the Maldives
delegation said Maldives was a close friend of Sri Lanka and understood
better than most the scale and impact of the conflict. The Maldives
understood the trauma inflicted by the conflict and that it would take
time to rebuild.
To rebuild, there had to be accountability for all involved in human
rights abuses, reconciliation had to be promoted and the creation of a
fairer and more equitable society ensured. The Maldives believed the
resolution was not necessary at the current juncture. Sri Lanka needed
time and space to implement the LLRC recommendations.
Indonesia: Speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote,
Indonesia’s representative said it was with deep regret that the
delegation was not able to support the resolution.
This was due to the
failure of the co-sponsor to respond in a constructive manner to the
reconciliation process at the national level. The efforts of the
Government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the Lessons
Learnt and Reconciliation Commission were not without imperfections.
However, the process needed support and nurturing at the international
Bangladesh: In an explanation of the vote before the vote on
resolution, the Bangladesh delegation said Bangladesh maintained a
specific position to not support country specific resolutions without
the approval of the country concerned. Such resolutions would make
limited impact on the ground if the country concerned was not on board.
Sri Lanka was a country that had been the victim of terrorism for
more than three decades and had only recently come out of this violence.
The Government of Sri Lanka had provided significant leadership in
countering international terrorism and required time and space to heal
from the long lasting effects of terrorism. Bangladesh would vote
against the Resolution, they said.
Saudi Arabia: “We are of the view that Sri Lanka should have more
time for reconciliation”.
Kuwait: “We are against the Resolution against Sri Lanka at this
juncture as only three years have elapsed after the conflict”.
Qatar: “Sri Lanka as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement has taken
tremendous efforts to promote reconciliation in the aftermath of the
Congo: “Sri Lanka should be given more time to heal the wounds of
Mauritania: “Sri Lanka has made tremendous strides towards
development in the aftermath of the conflict”.
Kyrgyzstan and Angola were among the eight nations that abstained
Speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote,
the delegation of Kyrgyzstan said they would abstain as they held the
view that Sri Lanka had not had enough time to review the
recommendations of the Commission.
The Council should allow enough time
for improvement of the situation without interference.
Action at the international level would only destabilise the
situation, which was not in the favour of any member of the
Angola: In an explanation of the vote before the vote on the
resolution, the Angola delegation said it would abstain from voting on
the Resolution because the principles that guided the Council had not
been respected. The Resolution should encourage and help the people of
Sri Lanka to pursue national reconciliation. Angola had gone through a
complex and difficult process of national reconciliation and the results
could not be achieved on paper but only at the grass roots level, they