Island Editorial



March 31, 2014, 8:54 pm

US Ambassador in Colombo Michele J. Sison has claimed that the recently adopted US-backed Geneva resolution is not against Sri Lanka. It was undertaken in recognition of the resilience shown by Sri Lankans following years of conflict and their yearning for democracy and prosperity, she has said. The US maintains that it has done so as a friend of Sri Lanka!

If that resolution is not against Sri Lanka as the US envoy claims how come LTTE sympathisers including some Tamil Nadu politicians exulted at its passage? India flatly refused to vote for the resolution, dismissing it as ‘an intrusive approach that undermines national sovereignty and institutions [and therefore] is counterproductive; any significant departure from the core principle of constructive international dialogue and cooperation has the potential to undermine efforts of Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for promoting universal respect for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms’. Twelve UNHRC members voted against the US-backed resolution on similar grounds. Does the US think these countries are not Sri Lanka’s friends and they have not recognized ‘the resilience shown by Sri Lankans following years of conflict and their yearning for democracy and prosperity’?

Ambassador Sison has frowned on the deterioration of Sri Lanka’s human rights situation. Yes, the general consensus is that the government has not done enough to improve its human rights record and its cavalier attitude has proved to be counterproductive.

But, shouldn’t the US which pontificates to other countries about the need to protect human rights and address accountability issues practise what it preaches?

The UN Human Rights Committee has recently urged the US to ‘ensure that all cases of unlawful killings, torture or other ill-treatment, unlawful detention, or enforced disappearance are effectively, independently and impartially investigated and that perpetrators, including, in particular, persons in command positions, are prosecuted’. In other words, this call has had to be made because the US has not yet probed these crimes. Isn’t the UNHRC duty bound to step in to conduct a ‘comprehensive and independent investigation’ into such accountability issues?

The UN Human Rights Committee has flayed President Barack Obama for his failure to fulfil a commitment to close the Guantánamo Bay Prison. One of his pre-election promises was to close down that Black Hole. Many detainees have been held there and in military prisons in Afghanistan for more than a decade without charge or trial, the committee has pointed out. Will the US welcome a UNHRC resolution calling for an international mechanism to probe these serious human rights violations?

Among the other offences the Human Rights Committee has hauled the US over the coals for are enduring racial disparities in the justice system including large numbers of black prisoners serving longer sentences than whites, mistreatment of mentally-ill and juvenile prisoners, segregation in schools, high levels of homelessness and criminalization of homeless people, racial profiling by police, including the mass surveillance of Muslim communities by the New York police department, failure to prosecute senior members of its armed forces and private contractors involved in torture and targeted killings. Strangely, the UNHRC has chosen to turn a blind eye to these very serious charges.

If the recently adopted Geneva resolution is really aimed at helping Sri Lanka improve its human rights situation and bring about reconciliation as Ambassador Sison has argued, then there is no reason why the proponents thereof should not help the US similarly by getting the UNHRC to probe its human rights violations, at least, the ones listed by the UN independent experts. That’s what friends are there for––according to the US!


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