The UN Human Rights Council, whose new session has just begun in Geneva, has a unique opportunity to pressure Sri Lanka’s authorities into meaningful action. In doing so, it would preserve the hope for accountability and reconciliation harboured by all Sri Lankans.
Last year, the Council passed a landmark resolution calling on Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations identified by its own government, in a report of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).The Elders, a group of independent leaders committed to peace and human rights, to which we belong, fully supported the resolution at the time. It was a decisive step in the right direction.
While the country’s civil (LLRC).war ended four years ago, and roads have been rebuilt, human rights protections are getting weaker. The personal tragedies of the conflict’s victims have yet to be acknowledged and accounted for. The climate required for reconciliation does not yet exist.
As Elders, we welcome this forthright stance and recall the Commonwealth’s founding commitments to democracy, freedom, peace and the rule of law.
The Human Rights Council – still a relatively young institution, created by the UN in 2006 – must show that it can build on its successes from one session to the next: if last year’s resolution gave Sri Lankans hope, this year’s session must go further to keep their hope alive.
Other crises have flared in the past year. Syria and Mali, to take two obvious examples, rightly figure high on the Council’s agenda. The case of Sri Lanka offers a different test: of the Council’s ability to hold governments accountable even when global attention has turned elsewhere.