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Sri Lanka rejects resolution at the UN Human Rights Council

Sri Lanka categorically rejected resolution A/HRC/51/L.1 (Rev.1) titled "Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka" tabled by the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Malawi, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and the United States, which was adopted by a vote at the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, today (06 October 2022).

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry delivered the statement on behalf of Sri Lanka as the country concerned and called on the Members of the Council to reject the resolution by voting against it.

In support of Sri Lanka’s position opposing the resolution, the delegation of Pakistan called for a vote. Over half of the members of the Council did not support the resolution with 07 countries (Bolivia, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela) voting against the resolution and 20 countries abstaining on the vote. 20 countries voted in favour of the resolution.

Representatives of Pakistan, Brazil, China, Venezuela, Japan and Republic of Korea made statements in support of Sri Lanka prior to the vote.

Pakistan said that they share the concerns of Sri Lanka and other Member States that the resolution is intrusive and this level of scrutiny would not be even acceptable to any sovereign state including the Core Group. They further observed that the resolution fails to recognize the horrendous acts of terrorism committed by the LTTE and its sponsors, lacks balance, proportionality and consistency. At a critical time when the people of Sri Lanka expect demonstrations of global solidarity and support to face its economic challenges which are not entirely of Sri Lanka’s own making, the Core Group chose a path that has the potential to exacerbate the problem instead of improving the situation.

Brazil noted the need to avoid politicization of the work of the Council and reiterated their position that cooperation of the country concerned is key to the success of this Council’s initiatives. Brazil highlighted the responsibility of the international community to support the country in its recovery including through international cooperation and assistance.

 China appreciated the Government of Sri Lanka’s commitment to promoting and protecting human rights, advancing sustainable socio-economic development, improving living standards, protecting the rights of the vulnerable groups, facilitating national reconciliation and combatting terrorism. China regretted that the resolution is tabled without the consent of country concerned, is a product of politicization, and will by no means play any positive role in the promotion of human rights in Sri Lanka. China highlighted that the work of Council should be guided by its founding principles and that all parties should promote genuine dialogue and cooperation and refrain from adopting double standards. China rejected the practice of using human rights as a pretext to interfere in the internal affairs and undermine the sovereignty of other countries to the detriment of international cooperation.

Venezuela expressed their deep concern at initiatives that do not have the support of the country concerned and that the Core Group is insisting on imposing hostile initiative, monitoring and oversight mechanism without the consent of Sri Lanka, ignoring the progress made by the Government. Venezuela highlighted that the mechanism financially bleed out over 6 million dollars that could have been better used to support the least developed countries and further that the practice of wasting money seems all too common in the Council.

Japan recognized the progress made by Sri Lanka and said that the Government’s own initiatives, efforts and commitments are indispensable to achieving real change on the ground.

Republic of Korea noted with appreciation the efforts of the Government of Sri Lanka to promote national reconciliation, reconstruction and prosperity.

Sri Lanka is grateful to the countries which withstood pressure by the sponsors and demonstrated their support to Sri Lanka by voting against or abstaining on the vote as well as by speaking in support of Sri Lanka.  

While delivering the Sri Lanka statement as the country concerned, the Foreign Minister regretted that a draft resolution on Sri Lanka is tabled once again despite the progress made domestically on reconciliation and human rights and Sri Lanka’s continued constructive engagement with the Council. He outlined Sri Lanka’s intention to move forward domestically with replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) with a comprehensive national security legislation, and the introduction of Constitutional amendments and a legal framework to strengthen democratic governance, participation and the rule of law as well as independent institutional oversight. On reconciliation and human rights, Sri Lanka is awaiting the final report of the Presidential Commission and the establishment of a domestic truth-seeking mechanism is under advanced discussion. He also referred to Sri Lanka’s upcoming engagement with the UPR process.

Minister Sabry highlighted that while the resolution may meet the objective of advancing the political considerations of the sponsors, it is manifestly unhelpful to Sri Lanka.

The Minister strongly opposed the resolution, particularly the proposal in Operative Paragraph (OP) 8 that seeks to ‘extend and reinforce’ the so-called “external evidence gathering mechanism” created by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The mechanism is outside the mandate envisaged for the Council. No sovereign state can accept the superimposition of an external mechanism that runs contrary to its Constitution and which pre-judges the commitment of its domestic legal processes.

The Minister also noted that many countries have already raised serious concerns on the budgetary implications of this resolution given its ever-expanding mandate. He further noted that this is an unhelpful and misdirected drain on the resources of all Member States, including the donors in the midst of ongoing global crises. In sharp contrast, he said that we are faced with the dire financial needs of developing countries to prevent hunger and child malnutrition.

Foreign Minister Sabry objected to the references in the resolution to matters which are outside the framework of the Council such as domestic economic and financial policy. He further observed that solutions to economic and financial crises faced today by many countries will not be found in the mandate, the instruments or the expertise of the Council.

The result of the vote demonstrates that the resolution is another example of the North-South polarization and politicization of the Council, contrary to its founding principles. This vote also demonstrated solidarity among the countries of the South which continued to support the basic founding principles of the Human Rights Council of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity leading to constructive international dialogue and cooperation.

The Human Rights Council is comprised of 47 Members, including 13 African states, 13 Asia- Pacific states, 8 Latin American & Caribbean States, 7 Western Europe and Other States, and 6 Eastern European States.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Colombo

Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka at the 51st Regular Session of the United Nation Human Rights Council in Geneva on 06 October, 2022

 Mr. President,

It is deeply regrettable that a group of countries has tabled a “country–specific” resolution against Sri Lanka, despite our continued and constructive engagement with this Council on multiple fronts.

It is yet another example of the unfortunate divisions and polarization of this Council which is contrary to its founding principles that, I quote, “…the work of the Council shall be guided by the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, constructive international dialogue and cooperation…”

Sri Lanka categorically rejects this draft Resolution HRC/51/L.1/Rev.1, presented without our consent, despite our efforts to engage with the main sponsors. While this resolution may meet the objective of advancing the political considerations of the sponsors, it is manifestly unhelpful to Sri Lanka. We call on the Members of the Council to reject it by a vote.

Mr. President,

The list of co-sponsors of the draft resolution amply demonstrates its divisive nature. Last year, many countries braved intense pressure by powerful sponsors and opposed resolution 46/1 or abstained in the vote.  This year, we thank countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America who supported Sri Lanka during the informal consultations on this draft.

Sri Lanka categorically rejects the resolution, particularly the proposal in OP 8. As we have repeatedly stated, this so-called external evidence gathering mechanism will have wide-ranging legal and political implications for all countries. Such unprecedented and ad hoc expansion of the mandate of the Council and the functions of a technical secretariat was never envisaged when this Council was established. No sovereign state can accept the superimposition of an external mechanism that runs contrary to its Constitution and which pre-judges the commitment of its domestic legal processes.

The Council may take note that many countries have already raised serious concerns on the budgetary implications of this resolution given its ever-expanding mandate. This is an unhelpful and misdirected drain on the resources of all Member States, including the donors in the midst of ongoing global crises. In sharp contrast, we are faced with the dire financial needs of developing countries to prevent hunger and child malnutrition.

We strongly object to the draft resolution pronouncing on domestic, economic and financial policy matters which are outside the framework of this forum. Solutions to economic and financial crises faced today by many countries will not be found in the mandate, instruments or expertise of this Council.

Further, it is deeply regrettable that this rambling resolution, running into several pages, ignores the institutional and political stability restored in Sri Lanka, despite the significant political and social challenges.

Mr. President,

As I outlined in my previous intervention, Sri Lanka remains firmly committed to pursuing tangible progress on human rights through our domestic institutions. This includes replacing the PTA with a comprehensive national security legislation, the introduction of constitutional amendments and a legal framework to strengthen democratic governance, participation and the rule of law, as well as independent institutional oversight. On reconciliation and human rights, the contours of a domestic truth-seeking mechanism is under advanced discussion as we await the final report of the Presidential Commission. We are of the firm view that any solution should be within the constitutional framework of a sovereign Sri Lanka. On our further engagement with this Council, we look forward to domestic consultations in preparation for our upcoming UPR process.

Today, Sri Lanka is making gradual and difficult progress in resolving the severe financial situation we are facing. Globally, it is clear that the causes for the prevailing economic crises affecting all countries are not entirely internal, but also external. We are deeply concerned about the many hardships faced by our people and have made provisions for the necessary social protection measures.

Sri Lanka has overcome many challenges in the past – we have ended decades of separatist terrorism, successfully managed the human-health dimension of the pandemic and despite economic challenges, succeeded in maintaining a high rank in human development. We aspire to build on the economic, political and social stability restored in recent months with the support of all our people, including through outreach to overseas Sri Lankans, in a just fair and inclusive society which realizes the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In these circumstances, it is regrettable that this resolution has been tabled. The North-South divide is clearly reflected in the consideration of this resolution as well as in the voting results of previous resolutions on Sri Lanka.

For all the above reasons, Sri Lanka rejects this draft resolution and requests the Members of this Council to reject this resolution by a vote.

Thank you.

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