Tough times ahead for Sri Lanka in Geneva

UN (OHCHR)     With the UK declaring its intention to move the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) against Sri Lanka at its next session in March, 2014, in the wake of the US being re-elected to the UN body, Sri Lanka was now facing an unprecedented broadside at the UN body, officials as well as diplomatic sources told The Island.

The UK, too, won a place in the 47-member council. Altogether 14 countries secured seats in the council. They are Algeria, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Macedonia, the Maldives, Mexico, Morocco, France, Namibia, South Africa and the UK.

The US was re-elected for a second consecutive three-year term at the UNHRC on November 11 about a week before UK Prime Minister David Cameron warned Sri Lanka of dire consequences unless the government addressed accountability issues during the next four months. The warning was given on the sidelines of the recently concluded Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo.

Members are eligible to be elected for two consecutive three-year terms.

A spokesperson for the British High Commission in Colombo declined to make any additional comment to Premier Cameron’s statement. This was in response to The Island seeking an interview with the British High Commissioner in Colombo, John Rankin to discuss post-CHOGM issues.

Sources said that Sri Lanka’s position would be further undermined by India, too, being a member of the UNHRC. India threw its weight behind a US-sponsored resolution at the Geneva session in March last year. The resolution received the backing of 24 countries, while 15 opposed and eight abstained.

To make matters worse, major Tamil Nadu political parties aligned with the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) now in power and the main Opposition party, the Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) would be able to influence them, sources said. The US-UK-India alliance could cause a severe crisis on the diplomatic front, sources said.

With two key Commonwealth members, the UK and India moving against Sri Lanka, the incumbent head of the grouping, those Commonwealth members who now represented the UNHRC too, could come under heavy pressure to join the anti-Sri Lanka project, sources said. The UNHRC will be represented by seven Commonwealth countries for the 2014-2016 period, namely, Kenya, the Maldives, Pakistan, Namibia, India, South Africa and the UK.

External Affairs Ministry sources said that those pushing for an international war crimes investigation into accountability issues would try to bring member nations of the EU as well as the Commonwealth together in a large grouping to push Sri Lanka on the human rights front. Sources said that strategic alliances such as the EU, would always work as a team though there have been instances where it was sharply divided. The invasion of Iraq in March 2003, without UN sanction was a case in point, sources said. In spite of EU opposition, the UK joined the US –led invasion, which is now subject to a domestic inquiry in the UK.(The Island)

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