UK Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire, addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council said the time has now clearly come for international action with regard to Sri Lanka. Addressing the Council on preventing sexual violent in conflict, Swire said, “the Government of Sri Lanka has failed to ensure independent and credible investigations into alleged violations and abuses committed by both parties during the conflict in Sri Lanka.”
“A year ago, this Council asked the High Commissioner to report on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. That report, received by members of this Council in recent days, is unambiguous. The majority of recommendations from successive Human Rights Council resolutions remain unimplemented, nor has the Sri Lankan Government accepted offers of technical assistance from the UN,” he added.
“Therefore,” the Foreign Office Minister said, “the time has now clearly come for international action with regard to Sri Lanka. This Council has a duty to act on the findings of the report we collectively commissioned and to establish the truth. If we fail to do so, where does that leave us? I hope the Human Rights Council can unite to support the call for an independent investigation into alleged human rights violations and abuses on both sides. This will help pave the way for lasting reconciliation.”
Lynne Yelich Canadian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Consular said Canada regretted the Sri Lankan Government’s unwillingness to engage constructively on the substance of various reports or take genuine steps for accountability and reconciliation. “Previous internal mechanisms have remained secret, partial or unfulfilled,” Yelich told the Council in her speech.
“In the absence of credible actions by the Government of Sri Lanka, Canada supports the call for an international inquiry mechanism,” the Minister charged.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, stressed the need for accountability and welcomed the report on Sri Lanka by his Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Pillay made her last opening speech before the Council, as her term ends in August 2014. Issuing a poignant call, Pillay said leaders who fail to heed voices raised for human rights often find themselves called into account and sooner or later lose their power. “Respect for human rights is not a mere legal obligation, but also bestows legitimacy on those leaders who ensure this respect,” the High Commissioner noted.
Addressing the UN Human Rights Council yesterday, the European Union called for accountability in Sri Lanka, stating it was the “only way for stability” on the island. Dimitris Kourkoulas, Greece’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, addressed the Council on behalf of the EU, stating,
“Facing our past is a vital component of ensuring a stable and peaceful future.”
“In Sri Lanka, where the High Commissioner has just issued her report, it is vital that the full truth of past events is made known and accountability be pursued, for this is the only way for stability.”
After four years, the European Union has restarted its dialogue with Sri Lanka and is hopeful this can facilitate real reform to the situation on the ground alongside accountability for past crimes, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Greece said.