UNHRC adopts resolution against S Lanka; India abstains from voting

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Geneva [Switzerland], March 23 (ANI): India on Tuesday abstained from voting on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution in Geneva against Sri Lanka, while calling on the island country to carry forward the process of reconciliation and address aspirations of its Tamil minority.

However, in a setback to Colombo, the UNHRC adopted the resolution against Sri Lanka's rights record.

Twenty-two members out of 47 voted in favour of the resolution titled 'Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka' while 11 members, including Pakistan and China voted against the resolution.

Along with India, Bahrain, Cameroon, Sudan, Togo, Gabon, Indonesia, Nepal, Nambia, Japan, Libya and Burkina Faso were among the 14 countries who abstained.

"We would urge that the Government of Sri Lanka carry forward the process of reconciliation, address the aspirations of the Tamil community and continue to engage constructively with the international community to ensure that the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all its citizens are fully protected," First Secretary to India's Mission to the United Nations, Geneva Pavan Badhe said in the statement before the vote at the 46th session of the UNHRC.

India's approach to the question of human rights in Sri Lanka is guided by two fundamental considerations, he said.

"One is our support to the Tamils of Sri Lanka for equality, justice, dignity and peace. The other is in ensuring the unity, stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. We have always believed that these two goals are mutually supportive and Sri Lanka's progress is best assured by simultaneously addressing both objectives" according to the statement by India.

The first secretary stated that New Delhi supports the call by the international community for the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfill its commitments on the devolution of political authority, including through the early holding of elections for Provincial Councils and to ensure that all Provincial Councils are able to operate effectively, in accordance with the 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution.

"At the same time, we believe that the work of OHCHR should be in conformity with mandate given by the relevant resolutions of the UN General Assembly," he said.

The vote, which was to be held on Monday was postponed due to some scheduling issues, the Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) reported.

Sri Lanka has been lobbying for support against the resolution with China, Russia and Pakistan the key countries set to vote against the document.

The resolution was tabled by the Core Group on Sri Lanka which includes the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany along with Malawi, Montenegro, and North Macedonia at the 46th Session of the (UNHRC) in Geneva.

According to the resolution, the human rights council expressed "serious concern at the trends emerging over the past year, which represent a clear early warning sign of a deteriorating situation of human rights in Sri Lanka" that including the accelerating militarization of civilian government functions; the erosion of the independence of the judiciary and key institutions responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights.

According Daily Mirror, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking India's support.

Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage told Daily Mirror that it was part of the president's efforts to secure the support of the member states. He said the President had been making such requests in writing from other heads of states as well.

The core group initially asked Sri Lanka to help bring a consensual resolution. However, Colombo insisted that it cannot give a firm answer without seeing the content of it.

Last year in February, Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who oversaw a brutal end to a decades-long conflict with Tamil separatists, had said that the country was withdrawing from a United Nations' resolution investigating alleged war crimes.

Mahinda Rajapaksa was president when Sri Lankan troops defeated Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, but rights groups accused the army of killing at least 40,000 civilians in the final months of the conflict.

Sri Lanka had co-sponsored the resolution at the UNHRC along with 11 other countries calling for the investigation of allegations of wartime atrocities by both government forces and the Tamil Tiger rebels, who were fighting for a separate homeland for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority, according to Al Jazeera.

A UN report published last month warned that the failure of Sri Lanka to address past violations has significantly heightened the risk of human rights violations being repeated.

The report urges enhanced monitoring and strong preventive action by the international community, warning that "Sri Lanka's current trajectory sets the scene for the recurrence of the policies and practices that gave rise to grave human rights violations." (ANI)