One of the reasons the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam gave for pulling out of India’s government Tuesday was concern a U.S.-backed draft resolution on alleged human rights abuses against Tamils in Sri Lanka is getting watered down.
The DMK, who draws a lot of its support from Tamils living in southern India, said the central government in New Delhi was not doing enough to back a strong resolution, which is due to be tabled at the United Nations Human Rights Council annual meeting in Geneva later this week.
According to Indian news reports, the DMK chief, M. Karunanidhi, said India’s Congress-led coalition government “had not only refused to consider the DMK’s views on the U.S.-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC but had quietly watered down the resolution.”
But a copy of the draft resolution, given to The Wall Street Journal by a Western official, does not appear to be an attempt at compromise in any way.
The DMK may have been taking its cues from Sri Lankan media, which on Tuesday said the latest version was a sort of capitulation by the U.S.
Sri Lanka’s Nation newspaper reported on its website that the U.S. has tabled a “toned down final resolution on Sri Lanka” late Monday at the Human Rights Council.
“The final draft tabled acknowledges the country’s progress in some areas of reconciliation and no longer notes a call for an international inquiry on war crimes allegations by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay,” the paper said.
In fact, the draft resolution remains hard-hitting and likely to anger the Sri Lankan government.
True, it notes the government’s progress in rebuilding infrastructure in the north of the country. That area was wracked by a 26-year civil war that ended in 2009 with a Sri Lankan army offensive that a U.N. panel estimates cost 40,000 lives, mainly civilians from the minority Tamil population. It also commends the government’s efforts at demining and resettling internally-displaced people.
But the hardest-hitting parts of the draft resolution remain in place and it would be hard to see what the DMK could complain about if India backs this resolution when it is voted on this week in Geneva.
Here’s one part that has not changed:
“Expressing concern at the continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, and violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as intimidation of and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society and journalists, and threats to judicial independence and the rule of law, and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief.”
On Wednesday, Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, a native of India’s Tamil Nadu state, said: “India’s position has always been and remains that UNHRC should adopt a strong resolution that would send a resolute message to Sri Lanka and goad Sri Lanka to accept an independent and credible investigation.”
India voted last year for a similar resolution against Sri Lanka, angering Colombo. And these comments are hardly a sign that India is backing away from a tough stance this time. Mr. Chidambaram also said the government would move to amend the current draft but gave no details.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa promised soon after the war to mount an independent probe into allegations of rights abuses, which included claims the army had fired on schools in Tamil areas in 2009. The U.S. and other governments say the country has failed to do so and authorities continue to mistreat the country’s Tamil minority.
Sri Lankan officials blame the Tamil diaspora in the U.S. and elsewhere for fueling the allegations, which they deny. They say the U.S. action at the U.N. is meddling in the affairs of a sovereign state.
In a report last month, New York-based Human Rights Watch claimed the Sri Lankan army is using sexual violence to torture suspected members or supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the militant group better known as the Tamil Tigers that lost the war.
Rights groups also point to Mr. Rajapaksa’s removal in January of Shirani Bandaranayake, then chief justice, as evidence his government is moving to quash judicial independence.
A parliamentary committee earlier had accused Ms. Bandaranayake of amassing unexplained wealth while in office and misusing power. She denies the charges and claims to have been targeted for defending the judiciary from political interference.
Sri Lankan officials say here removal was in line with the country’s constitution.
– Mukesh Jagota contributed to this post.