A challenge for Global South | Sunday Observer

A challenge for Global South

28 February, 2021

According to reports from Geneva, more countries will defend Sri Lanka at the virtual 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), whose Chief Michelle Bachelet had earlier presented a biased and inaccurate report on Sri Lanka, based mostly on unverified bits of information circulated by sections of the Tamil Diaspora and some Western nations.

Among this chorus of voices is China, which is significantly a veto-power wielding Permanent Member of the UN Security Council. Chinese Permanent Representative in Geneva Ambassador Chen Xu has extended China’s strong support to Sri Lanka in his official statement in the Interactive Dialogue on the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights) Report on Sri Lanka during the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council.

“It is the consistent stand of China to oppose politicisation and double standards on human rights, as well as using human rights as an excuse in interfering in other countries’ internal affairs. We are concerned about the clear lack of impartiality shown in the OHCHR’s report to this session on Sri Lanka and express our regret over the failure of the OHCHR to use the authoritative information provided by the Sri Lankan government.”

As China has clearly stated, the so-called ‘preventive intervention’ and the proposed targeted sanctions contained in the OHCHR’s report amount to clear interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka and exceed the mandate of the OHCHR. The same sentiments had been expressed by Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, who had earlier rejected the OHCHR Report outright.

Minister Gunawardena has rightly pointed out that Bachelet’s report on Sri Lanka is rife with factual inaccuracies that appear to equate atrocities committed by the LTTE, a terrorist organisation proscribed internationally, with legitimate action taken by the Government to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country and the right to life of people of all communities.

More countries have now realised that in dealing with home grown and international terrorism, they too may be liable for persecution by mechanisms such as the UNHRC and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ironically, both these organisations have come in for heavy flak from certain Western countries themselves over attempts to file charges against their Security Forces personnel engaged in operations against terrorist organisations. There cannot however, be two sets of laws for Western countries and developing countries.

This is why these words of Minister Gunawardena are spot on: “The call for asset freezes, travel bans, references to the ICC and the exercise of universal jurisdiction by individual States, based on evidence that has been denied access to and retained by the High Commissioner’s Office with some of it unreleased for 30 years, particularly in relation to a country such as Sri Lanka which has consistently and constructively engaged with the UN and its mechanisms, points to a distinct and eminent danger which the international community as a whole need to take note of.” Indeed, all countries in the Global South trying to eliminate terrorism and extremism from their soil face the danger of being hauled before these organisations for no fault of their own.

It is also pertinent to note that some of the countries in the Core Group on Sri Lanka could have been propelled to act against Sri Lanka due to domestic electoral compulsions. It is no secret that the Tamil Diaspora forms a substantial part of the electors in these countries, which has compelled certain politicians in these countries to appease their sentiments purely for electoral gains. Paradoxically, many of the younger members of the Tamil Diaspora who lead demonstrations against Sri Lanka have never even been to Sri Lanka and have no knowledge of the actual ground situation in the North or the rest of the country. Once the pandemic is over, Sri Lankan authorities should initiate a dialogue with these sections and invite some of them over to see for themselves the ground situation. It is a well-known fact that Northerners in Sri Lanka want to live in peace with the other communities instead of hallucinating about a separate state.

In fact, accountability and reconciliation must be domestic processes sans foreign interference. Sri Lanka has noted that the High Commissioner’s Report has incorporated many issues of governance and matters that are essentially domestic for any self-respecting, sovereign country.

This is in complete violation of Article 2 (7) of the Charter of the UN that states: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorise the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State…”. The trajectory that has emerged with regard to the recommendations and conclusions unfortunately reflects the preconceived, politicised and prejudicial agenda which certain Western elements have relentlessly pursued against Sri Lanka after 2009. These recommendations are based on ill-founded allegations that have no factual basis at all.

Sri Lanka has always expressed its commitment to accountability and reconciliation and by withdrawing from Resolution 30/1 and other Resolutions co-sponsored by the previous Government, the present Government has shown the world that it does not need any foreign ‘supervision’ or involvement in domestic processes. Sri Lanka has a strong and independent Judiciary and other investigative mechanisms that have on many occasions prosecuted members of the Forces and Police for alleged human rights violations.

The Government is now reviewing the recommendations of several Commissions that have previously handled accountability, reconciliation and reparation issues to take further action. The international community should extend its assistance to Sri Lanka for the success of these endeavours.