Pakistan offered its sympathy to Sri Lanka after it voted against the US draft resolution against the island nation. Pakistan remarked that Sri Lanka suffered from ‘externally-sponsored terror’ for many years. “As a country that is constantly subject to terror attacks we sympathise,” said Pakistan Ambassador Zamir Akram.
Calling the US resolution against Sri Lanka ‘intrusive’, Pakistan voted against it and added that Pakistan appreciated the island nation’s efforts to reconcile. The Pakistani envoy said “The government of Sri Lanka took several substantive measures including the inauguration of the time-bound action plan on the inquiry commission.”
The envoy opined that actions by the council on a country-specific resolution must be in consultation with the country concerned. This draft resolution is not constructive.
Before concluding his speech, he said “A country like Sri Lanka needs to be helped and not chastised.” Pakistan’s statement was antagonistic to the Indian statement as it strongly criticised Sri Lanka. Adding that the measures taken so far were unsatisfactory, the Indian envoy Dilip Sinha said “It is vital that Sri Lanka addresses issues like missing persons, detainees, and the return of private lands by military.”
The 47-member Geneva forum adopted the text with 25 countries in favour and 13 against, including Pakistan. Eight abstained and one delegation was absent.
The United Nations urged Sri Lanka in a resolution to carry out credible investigations into killings and disappearances during its nearly 30-year civil war, especially in the brutal final stages in 2009. It voiced concern at reports of continuing violations including killings, torture, curbs on the right to freedom of expression, and reprisals against activists and journalists.
Resolutions such as that brought by the United States are not binding, but the scrutiny by the UN Human Rights Council maintains pressure on the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to prosecute crimes committed in the conflict against Tamil Tiger rebels.
“Sri Lanka must take meaningful action on reconciliation and accountability and address growing concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation,” US ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe told the Geneva talks.
Speaking later to reporters, Donahoe said: “We are not satisfied with the progress to date.”
Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in the final months of a war that began in 1983 as government troops advanced on the last stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels fighting for an independent homeland, a UN panel has said.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a report last month that Sri Lanka was failing to investigate alleged wartime atrocities committed by government forces and that activists and opposition politicians were still being killed or abducted.
The US resolution “calls upon the government to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law”.
Rights groups welcomed the continuing spotlight on Sri Lanka but regretted that the council failed to establish an international investigation into wartime crimes.
“It is clear that the Sri Lankan government is unwilling and unable to investigate these events itself, so an international probe is the only way to obtain the truth and justice necessary for genuine reconciliation,” Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s expert on Sri Lanka, said in a statement.
Sri Lankan presidential envoy Mahinda Samarasinghe took the floor during Thursday’s debate to reject the US resolution as ‘highly intrusive’ and called for states to vote against the text.
“Why this preoccupation with Sri Lanka, why this inordinate and disproportionate level of interest in a country that has successfully ended a 30-year conflict against terrorism and has demonstrated so much progress in a relatively short space of time?” Samarasinghe said.
Referring to Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, he said: “We have every confidence in our domestic processes and mechanism.” Former army chief Sarath Fonseka, who led the military to victory in the conflict, said this week he was ready to face questions about allegations of war crimes.