By Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution against Sri Lanka, at its 19th session, has opened a small window of hope, where there was none before, for truth and justice to finally triumph; not now but in the foreseeable future when the Sri Lankan government is expected “to implement the LLRC recommendations” and “fulfill its relevant legal obligations and commitment to initiate credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans.”
Soon, meaning “as expeditiously as possible” Sri Lanka will have to “present a comprehensive action plan, detailing the steps it has taken and will take to implement the LLRC recommendations and also address alleged violations of international law.”
A timeline has been determined by stipulating that at the least, at the 22nd session (the Human Rights Council holds at least 3 sessions a year – so its presumed at the end of one year) the Council members be informed of “the provision of technical assistance and advice (given to Sri Lanka) by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and relevant special procedures mandate holders,” to implement the above mentioned steps.
At the end of this timeline the world will know the level of progress made by Sri Lanka and how far it has gone to account for the scale of mass killings of civilians including children, women, prisoners of war and surrendering combatants, perpetrated by its armed forces allegedly at the behest of its senior political and military officers including President Rajapakse and his brothers.
The resolution could not have been adopted if not for 24 countries, all of whom should be commended, for their spirited stand against lies and impunity and for voting with their conscience, putting truth and justice before (hopefully) self and geo-political interests. Much credit should go to America for initiating the resolution and also to the India. Although responsible for the watered down version of the initial draft, the Indian government had to accede to strong pressure from Tamil Nadu and its Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa and was compelled to voting yes, the only Asian member country in the UNHRC to do so. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should be congratulated for taking this bold step, but right step. This is not about breaking historically friendly ties with Sri Lanka, it is about telling Rajapakse to do the right thing and submit himself to scrutiny in the event of such strong suspicions of wrong-doing, based on overwhelming and incriminating evidence stacked against him and his men.
Credit should also go to rights groups, the civil society, the international media, especially Channel 4, the Tamil Diaspora and Tamil organisations, world leaders and politicians, not forgetting the brave Sinhalese/Sri Lankan human rights campaigners and all who consistently and persistently have put concerted pressure to bear, to keep the matter at the top of the human rights agenda until the very end, until this outcome was achieved.
It is time for the Rajapakse regime to be in the dock, after allegedly slaughtering no less than 40,000 innocent Tamils, possibly more and after acting as judge, jury and executioner of the surviving combatants of the other side without affording them a trial. (People keep harping that the other side also committed war crimes, but let’s not forget compelling evidence shows many of them were allegedly murdered without a fair trial by this very same regime).
All that’s asked is that an international independent investigation be conducted and a fair trial be accorded to the accused no matter their rank or office, be it President Rajapakse, or Gotabaya Rajapakse, or Shavendra Silva or Palitha Kohona, immunity or no immunity, a right (to a fair trial) they never granted to the other side!
A small window of hope has opened for truth and justice to finally triumph.
We shall live in hope that it will happen, for hope springs eternal.
(The views expressed are author’s own)