UNHRC And Future Of Sri Lanka – OpEd


The present UN Human Rights Council – UNHRC has been functioning since March 2006, replacing the UN Commission on Human Rights – UNCHR, which had functioned since 1946. Now, the UNHRC is in its 18thcycle. Morocco’s UN Geneva representative, Mr Omar Zniber was elected as the President for the year 2024.

As every year, in 2024 there will be three regular sessions in UNHRC : 

(1) 55th -26 February to 05 April (2) 56th -18 June to 12 July (3) 57th -09 September to 09 October.

The forty-seven member countries for 2024 are given below, by region and the year their membership expires:

African States (13) – Algeria (2025), Benin (2024), Burundi (2026), Cameroon(2024), Côte d’Ivoire (2026), Eritrea (2024), Gambia(2024), Ghana (2026), Malawi (2026), Morocco (2025), Somalia (2024), South Africa (2025)and Sudan (2025)

Asia-Pacific States (13) – Bangladesh (2025), China (2026), India (2024), Indonesia (2026), Japan (2026), Kazakhstan (2024), Kuwait (2026), Kyrgyzstan (2025), Malaysia (2024), Maldives (2025), Qatar (2024), United Arab Emirates (2024)and Viet Nam (2025)

Latin American & Caribbean States (8) – Argentina (2024), Brazil (2026), Chile (2025), Costa Rica (2025), Cuba (2026), Dominican Republic (2026), Honduras (2024) and Paraguay (2024)

Western Europe & Other States (7) – Belgium (2025), Finland (2024), France (2026), Germany (2025), Luxembourg (2024), Netherlands (Kingdom of the) (2026) and USA (2024)

Eastern European States (6) – Albania (2026), Bulgaria (2026), Georgia (2025), Lithuania (2024), Montenegro (2024) and Romania(2025)

As 2024 will be an important year for Sri Lanka internally and externally, let me analyse its future in the UNHRC. Operative paragraphs 2, 7 & 9 of the last resolution, of 12 October 2022 (A/HRC/RES/51/1), insist on the following:

2. (The UNHCR) … calls upon Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations made by the Office and to give due consideration to the recommendations made by the special procedures; 

7. Notes the persistent lack of independent, impartial and transparent domestic mechanisms, and stresses the importance of ensuring investigations into, and accountability for, grave violations of human rights; 

19. Requests the OHCHR to enhance its monitoring and reporting on the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka, including on progress in reconciliation and accountability, …………… a comprehensive report that includes further options for advancing accountability at its fifty-seventh session… to be discussed in the context of an interactive dialogue. (Excerpts)

Resolution in the 57th session

Has Sri Lanka implemented any of these? No. Therefore, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – OHCHR, relevant special procedure mandate holders, Sri Lanka Core Group (comprising Canada, Malawi, Montenegro, North Macedonia, the UK and the USA), many International Organisations, the Elders and activists will conduct the toughest scrutiny and propose a resolution on Sri Lanka in the 57th session. 

Well and good. Whoever does this, decisions are in the hands of the UNHRC. There is no doubt that in the UNHRC there are two groups. One is known as pro-human rights and the other is known as pro-human wrongs. For example, countries like China, Cuba, Pakistan, Iran and a few other countries are pro-human wrongs.

Does this mean European countries, US, Canada and Australia are always pro-human rights? With my three decades of experience with UN forums, I cannot agree. Why? Remember the proverb/expression: “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” – (Quid pro quo). Today what is happening in Gaza and Yemen are good examples.

In the present economic and political crisis in Sri Lanka, it is all about “Qui pro quo”. With an unelected President Ranil Wickremasinghe, Sri Lanka is not marching towards the West but towards USA. 

US Ambassador

We understand that because of the growing influence of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna – JVP, the US Ambassador Julie Chung is trying to mediate between Ranil and the opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, motivating both of them to win over the JVP in the forthcoming Presidential election.  Will it work in the right direction or will it bring another protest by Aragalaya?

In fact, Sajith Premadasa and Ranil are real opportunists. Hope Sajith has not forgotten that, during the talks between  Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – LTTE and his father Premadasa, he was eager to take a photograph with LTTE leaders (photo). Then, he praised the LTTE for their bravery in fighting against the Indian forces. Later, Sajith turned against the LTTE. It’s the same with Ranil.

However, Julie Chung hasn’t considered the fact that in politics anything and everything is possible. What guarantees that the JVP will not join Sajith or even the Rajapaksa royal family?

In December 2013, I wrote an article, “Regime change is not a viable solution.”, I said: “Regime change in Sri Lanka will only pave the way for more excuses from the international community that a new regime needs time and space for its transitional period…….” (Excerpt)

If the USA is going to protect Sri Lanka in the 57th session because of Ranil, then what about the position of countries like China, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan and others who are totally against the USA and have been supporting Sri Lanka since the UNHRC was established? Does this mean that the USA will collaborate with these countries for the sake of Sri Lanka?

During the war, Sri Lanka cheated India and the international community. Can any reasonable person tell the world whether any promises made by then President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the international community and India have been implemented within the last fourteen years?


It’s the same with President Wickremasinge. The international community knows him well. As Prime Minister from 2015 to 2019, he smartly manipulated the Tamil National Alliance – TNA. With their help, he successfully completed his period. Once again the people in the North and East were cheated.

Also, Ranil cunningly co-sponsored the UNHRC resolution. Eventually, what happened to the resolution co-sponsored by Sri Lanka? When he became President, he criticised the Western governments, asking whether there were any international investigations in the UK or Germany. Why, what for? It would have made sense if he had asked whether there were any international investigations in the US.

As far as the UNHRC is concerned, the USA is playing musical chairs. Whenever there is a Republican President, they withdraw from the UNHRC and then the Democrats re-join. This is their recent history with UNHRC.

Since 2012, the Tamil diaspora has been attending the UNHRC in hundreds. Some of them work with a hidden agenda, and some pretend they alone are to be depended upon. As far as the people with hidden agendas are concerned, they brainwash victims to believe that a permanent badge to enter the UN premises, speak at a side event and make a two-minute intervention in broken English is human rights activism. Will any State consider these people seriously?

As I said before, the backbone of every resolution successfully passed in the UNHRC was the tireless work of the OHCHR, relevant special procedure mandate holders, the Sri Lanka Core Group, many International Human Rights Organisations, the Elders and activists. 

Sri Lankan international lobby

Here I must show how smartly Sri Lanka managed their international lobby in the past. The European Union – EU ban on the LTTE, is an example. The then Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mangala Samaraweera said on 4 April 2012: 

“……Then, seven countries in the 25-member EU did not agree with the LTTE ban and it became a difficulty to adopt the ban as a unanimous decision. Therefore, I met Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice several times and……got the consent of those seven nations to proscribe the LTTE on 29 May 2006…..” (Excerpt)  

Major-General Ulf Henricsson, head of the Monitoring Mission of the Sri Lankan Ceasefire Agreement said the same “at a critical time the decision was made ”in the cafés of Brussels” and there was massive pressure from the UK and US governments”. (Experts, European Parliament, P-009345-2012, 15/10/2012)

The EU ban on the LTTE as a terrorist group was in May 2006, almost exactly the same period when the  UNHRC was established. At the beginning, it was a difficult task for any activist to work on Sri Lanka in the UNHRC and in other forums, especially when India was supportive of Sri Lanka. However, we maintained momentum. But since May 2009 many things have changed gradually. 

Ranil’s recent visit abroad and meetings with diaspora Tamils raise doubts whether once again, he is preparing to take the people of the North and East for a ride. Many diaspora members who committed their lives to supporting victims of the ethnic conflict are presently observing the situation. Some unknown diaspora members in Canada and the UK want ‘name and fame’ and ‘hold Ranil’s tail’, promising they will protect Sri Lanka at any cost. They did the same thing from 2015 to 2019.

S.V. Kirubaharan

S.V. Kirubaharan is the Founder General Secretary of the Tamil Centre for Human Rights – TCHR.

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