India on Thursday voted for a United States-sponsored resolution at the United Nations' top human rights body censuring Sri Lanka for its alleged rights violations during the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
India initially showed reluctance to vote on a nation-specific resolution but changed its stand after political parties in Tamil Nadu exerted pressure on the United Progressive Alliance government to go with the resolution. The DMK, in particular, threatened to pull out its Ministers from the UPA government on the issue.
With 24 votes for, 15 against and 8 abstentions, the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted the resolution, which noted with concern that an internal inquiry report in Sri Lanka did not adequately address “serious allegations” of violations of international law. The resolution asked Colombo to present expeditiously a comprehensive action plan detailing the steps to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and to address the alleged violations of international law.
Informed sources said India decided to vote after persuading the sponsor to make two changes in the draft so that it became “non-intrusive” and contributed to a political reconciliation process in the island nation.
India did not participate in the debate, but voted with countries like Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Uruguay.
Many of India's neighbours, including China, Bangladesh and the Maldives; Russia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia were among the countries that voted against the resolution, which asked Colombo to implement the LLRC's constructive recommendations.
In a veiled attack on India, Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris, who was present during the voting, said the most distressing feature was that voting at the Council was now determined not by the merits of a particular issue but by strategic alliances and domestic political issues in other countries, a reference to the politics in Tamil Nadu.
However, Indian sources pointed out that New Delhi was successful in bringing about the change in the resolution to add a paragraph that said “recalling Council resolutions 5/1 and 5/2 on institution building of the Human Rights Council” to give a context.
The other change was in reference to the wording of the last para, which speaks of providing advice and technical assistance in implementing the steps suggested in the resolution. The amendment makes it clear that advice and technical assistance will be provided “in consultation with and with the concurrence of” the government of Sri Lanka that made the resolution “non-intrusive,” the Indian sources said.
Tabling the resolution, the U.S. said Colombo was given three years to hold its own investigations into allegations of serious violations but given the lack of action it was appropriate that the Council be pushed to do so. “An enduring peace will be unsustainable without meaningful steps to foster national reconciliation and accountability,” U.S. envoy Eileen Donahoe said. She also said India's backing was very helpful because it was a close neighbour. “We see India's support as nothing but positive.”
Sri Lanka's Special Envoy on Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe rejected the resolution, saying it was “misconceived, unwarranted and ill-timed” embodying several “harmful” elements that violated important principles having adverse ramifications for his country and others. Warning that the resolution would be counter-productive, he said it would undermine the principle of non-interference in matters within the domestic jurisdiction of the country, a point backed by China and Russia.
The resolution's opponents stated that the timing was not correct, adding that only three years had passed after the LTTE war ended and Sri Lanka needed more time to continue with its domestic process.
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