During the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions this month, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, UK envoy to the UN Simon Manley and the EU delegation insisted on the implementation of a human rights resolution on Sri Lanka previously adopted at its meeting in March.
Backed by the US, the resolution was presented by the Core Group on Sri Lanka, which includes the UK, Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Malawi and Montenegro. It called for the devolution of power to the Tamil elite, protection of human rights, a “review” of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), accountability, respect of religious freedoms and protection of human rights defenders.
Sri Lankan governments have a grave record of human rights violations and attacks on democratic rights, which has intensified under President Gotabhaya Rajapakse. The real purpose of the resolution, however, is to pressure Sri Lanka to break from Beijing and fully align itself with Washington’s military-strategic build up in the Indo-Pacific against China.
In a speech on September 13, Bachelet said that “militarisation and the lack of accountability” in Sri Lanka continues to have a “corrosive effect on fundamental rights.” She referred to the recent declaration of a state of emergency in Sri Lanka, draft regulations on civil society groups, numerous examples of arbitrary arrests and detention, and ongoing government interference in judicial processes.
Her office, Bachelet continued, had developed an information and evidence repository with nearly 120,000 individual items on Sri Lanka and urged UNHRC member states to provide the necessary funds to fully implement the March resolution. It would “collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve information and evidence” for future accountability processes in Sri Lanka, to help victims and survivors and investigations by UNHRC judicial proceedings, she said.
It was the first time a UN body outlined specific measures for an international intervention into Sri Lanka. Manley and the EU delegation called on Sri Lanka to “cooperate fully with the High Commissioner.”
The UNHRC previously focused on crimes committed by Sri Lankan armed forces during the final months of Sri Lanka’s communal war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This has now been expanded to include the anti-democratic measures implemented by the current Rajapakse government.
Since coming to power in November 2019, President Gotabhaya Rajapakse has militarised key parts of his administration by plugging in-service and retired senior military officers into key state posts. Repressive legislation, such as the PTA has been invoked to arbitrarily arrest and detain Muslim political leaders, activists, and writers.
25 September 2021
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