You are here

Bidisha asked: What could be the implications of India's abstention from the recent UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka?

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • Gulbin Sultana replies: Though India had abstained from voting, the resolution A/HRC/25/1 on “promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka” was passed at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on March 27, 2014 by a vote of 23 in favour of it. In the resolution, the UNHRC requested the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE from February 21, 2002 to November 15, 2011. In accordance with this mandate, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has appointed the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) investigation team comprising 12 members, including two forensic experts, a legal analyst, a gender specialist, and several investigators.

    There is also a secondary team comprising three external experts who would accompany the OHCHR investigation team and provide independent verification of the investigation's integrity. The three external experts include the former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari, former New Zealand Governor-General Silvia Cartwright and the Pakistani lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir. The team is expected to conduct its operations for a 10-month period beginning in mid-June to mid-April 2015. The team would seek permission to hold sittings in Sri Lanka, which it is unlikely to get as the Lankan Government has rejected any possibility of allowing an international probe. Therefore, the team has decided to hold hearings in New York, Geneva and Bangkok. Tamil expatriates and Lankan Tamil rights groups, which are very active in North America, Europe and Australia, would testify in these three countries. Eric Solheim, the former Norwegian peace envoy to Sri Lanka, has also agreed to give evidence on the final phase of the war to the investigation team.

    Tamils living in Sri Lanka would be interacting with the investigation team through telephone, video conferencing and skype, facilitated by civil society organisations and NGOs. Though there is no law in Sri Lanka which bars any citizen from testifying before a UN body, the government ministers have publicly warned that those bad mouthing Lanka at the UN inquiry would be dealt with. Therefore, there is a concern that in the absence of a witness protection law, witnesses could be subjected to intimidation. To protect witnesses against intimidation by pro-government groups, the UN team would keep their identities secret for the next 20 years. Thus, calculating all the possible hindrances, the OHCHR team is taking the required measures to conduct a smooth and efficient investigation. Hence, despite India’s opposition, there will be an international investigation as the OHCHR team has the necessary UN mandate.

    Posted on August 21, 2014