Top UN rights body approves greater scrutiny of Sri Lanka

·2 min read

GENEVA — The Human Rights Council on Tuesday adopted a resolution calling on the office of the U.N. rights chief to step up its monitoring of the situation in Sri Lanka.

In a 22-11 vote with 14 abstentions, the vote at the U.N.’s top human rights body also called on the government in Colombo to ensure “prompt, thorough and impartial investigation and, if warranted, prosecution” of alleged crimes linked to rights violations or “serious” violations of international law.

Western countries led the way in sponsoring and voting in favour of the measure, while other countries such as China, Russia, Eritrea and the Philippines opposed it. India was among those that abstained.

The move aims to strengthen the ability of the office of the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, to “collect, consolidate, analyze and preserve evidence” on rights violations in Sri Lanka that could be made available for future prosecutions.

Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, Dinesh Gunawardena, accused Western countries of “wanting to dominate the global south” -- and noted that the vote fell short of a majority in the 47-member Geneva body.

“Twenty-five votes were not on their side of the resolution,” he told reporters. “This is the important message that the countries in Geneva have given amidst great pressure by the European countries.”

Alluding to the rights council’s rules, Gunawardena said measures in the resolution cannot be implemented without the consent of Sri Lankan authorities.

But Human Rights Watch hailed a “landmark resolution” that it said would boost scrutiny of rights violations, improve international justice and advance accountability for victims and their families.

“The world has sent a message to Sri Lanka’s rulers, that they cannot escape accountability for international crimes, and they should step back now from escalating ongoing abuses,” said John Fisher, the advocacy group’s Geneva director.

The voting came on the next-to-last day of a four-week council session, the first of three held every year.

The Associated Press