for Accountability & Justice
by Thambu Kanagasabai – LLM [London] Former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, March 14, 2021
Sri Lanka’s contemptuous stand regarding UNHRC Resolutions 30/1, 34/1 and 40/1 as rejected by it has come under discussion in the current 46th Session of the UNHRC which is expected to pass a final Resolution against Sri Lanka. A zero draft Resolution has been crafted by the Core members with the UK playing the leading role. This follows after the Human Rights High Commissioner’s Report on Sri Lanka made public on January 27, 2021. Among other statements issued by the UNHRC Commissioner, a warning to the International Community was made stating that “Sri Lanka’s current trajectory sets a scene for the recurring of the policies and practices that gave rise to human rights violations.”
She also stated that, “It is time for international action to ensure justice for international crimes as Sri Lanka has demonstrated inability and unwillingness to advance accountability at the national level.” She also pointed out that the “Systematic impunity must be addressed by Sri Lanka.”
It is a sad chapter in the history of UNHRC when its Commissioner’s Report listing five important recommendations to the member countries hasbeen swept under the carpet and the Core members particularly UK with the support of USA have dealt a blow to accountability and justice by submitting a Resolution which is straying away from the Recommendations of the UNHRC High Commissioner. The crucial and much needed recommendation of referring Sri Lanka to the ICC and the Recommendation of Universal Jurisdiction and applying of Magnitsky Act sanctions have all been left out. After the lapse of 6 years since Resolution 30/1 in 2015 neither accountability nor justice nor reconciliation and nor even human rights have come under the serious attention and even mentions by the Sri Lankan Government… Having miserably failed to implement any of the recommendations, the Sri Lankan government has finally declared its withdrawal and rejections of these Resolutions to free itself from its commitments to UNHRC. The commitments it made in the Resolutions will remain alive, however, and will not lose their validity and binding on Sri Lanka.
By discarding and rejecting the Recommendation of referral of Sri Lanka to the ICC, the UK has shielded the alleged war criminals in Sri Lanka from all culpabilities by allowing the encouragement and continuation of human rights violations by other rogue countries who committed and are committing human rights violations.
It can be stated that UK hailed as a champion of democracy, human rights and rule of law has unabashedly trampled the core concept of democracy namely accountability and justice while shielding war criminals and Sri Lanka which will never admit its own failings in human rights through accountability.
It is time for the UK to rise to the occasion and pursue the correct path to mete out justice to the Tamil victims of war without leaving them in limbo for the sake of narrow geo-political and economic interests and or parochial considerations.
It need not be stated that while accountability is the main pillar of a democratic state, non-accountability and impunity are the main armours of a dictator to sustain his dictatorial rule… Distressingly and disappointingly, the UNHRC has ignored and booted out the recommendations of the Human Rights High Commissioner who called for the setting up of a full independent International Impartial Mechanism [IIIM] even after UNHRC confirmed the lack of accountability in Sri Lanka’s domestic Judicial Mechanism. There is no iota of doubt that war victims deserve full justice not half-baked solutions.
With the ICC and international mechanism being shut out, the helpless Tamil war victims are forced to explore other avenues in search of justice. The option appears to be that they should stand on their own feet and consider launching peaceful non-violent mass demonstrations and agitations without involving politicians who always have their own axes to grind.
UK owes the responsibility to live up to its reputation and international standing as a champion which must dispense justice through actions and not by words. The duty also lies on UK to vindicate the relevance, objectives and obligations of UNHRC and ICC in their role to net the war criminals in any country while closing all avenues of their escapes and evasions. These steps will strengthen and enhance the reputation of UNHRC and validation of its Resolutions enabling UNHRC to become more effective and vibrant. The current discussion in UNHRC 46th Session on Sri Lanka must uphold its commitments and should resurrect itself from its blow to ICC and entrench its role and stature thereby making accountability and justice fully complied and respected without any delay or evasion.