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The Effects of the U.S. Resolution Against Sri Lanka

The Effects of the U.S. Resolution Against Sri Lanka

Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council, addressing the HRC on March 15, 2010Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council, addressing the HRC on March 15, 2010

Europe and most of Latin America supported the US resolution against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council’s (HRC) 19th session in Geneva.

Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council, addressing the HRC on March 15, 2010

China, Russia, and several countries in Africa and Asia voted against it. Unsurprisingly, Cuba and Ecuador also opposed the resolution. Having never before voted for a “country-specific resolution,” India’s vote was significant, both symbolically and materially. It is unclear what Delhi’s decision will mean when it comes to US-Indian relations in the coming years or what effect it will have on Indo-Sri Lankan ties.

The Sri Lankan government has already stated said that the “intimate relations” between India and Sri Lanka will not be affected, but that is just simplistic government braggadocio. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently said that India does “not want to infringe on the sovereignty of Sri Lanka,” which appears to be incompatible with the vote his country cast on Thursday in Geneva. India was in an extremely difficult position, but it is still hard to believe that they did not abstain.

A little over a week ago, the Indian government reminded the Indian Parliament (and the international community) that India wound not support a country-specific resolution. On the other hand, India had a lot to do with “toning down” the draft resolution that the US had originally tabled, ensuring that an already weak resolution became even more irresolute.

As a result of the resolution, which passed by a 24-15 margin (with 8 abstentions) the Sri Lankan government will probably present some sort of “action plan” which shows how the government will implement some of the recommendations from the Final Report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). The resolution also calls for the government to “address alleged violations of international law.” This will not happen. An international probe into what transpired during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war will never occur as long as the Rajapaksa regime remains in power. Such an investigation might not ever take place.

Sri Lanka will not be on the formal agenda of the 20th session of the HRC. Sri Lanka will probably not be on the formal agenda of the 21st session either, since a report from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) should be forthcoming at the HRC’s 22nd session, according to the US resolution. This leaves more than a year for the Sri Lankan government to receive “advice and technical assistance” from OHCHR.

Given the Sri Lankan government’s well-known aversion to any form of international assistance on matters related to human rights, one should not expect that much collaboration between Colombo and OHCHR over the next twelve months. Furthermore, according to the resolution, such cooperation would only take place “in consultation with, and with the concurrence of, the Government of Sri Lanka.”

If someone is going to put serious pressure on Sri Lanka during the next session of the HRC, it almost certainly will not be the United States. The Obama Administration will be occupied with an electoral battle that will focus on domestic policy. Sri Lanka’s human rights record does not and will not appear, even on the periphery, of topics that matter to the American public.

The administration of Mahinda Rajapaksa has only become more controlling since winning the civil war in 2009. Still, this is a disgraceful moment for the Rajapaksa regime; the Sri Lankan government’s (usually effective) rhetoric is no longer working. Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine that “Sri Lanka” will garner more attention that it already has. Given the government’s propensity for authoritarianism and continued efforts to infringe upon the rights of the country’s ethnic minorities, significant policy shifts will not come from Colombo in the near term. On the other hand, the Sri Lankan government should make some moves to reduce international pressure in the coming year, especially as it relates to demilitarization and the rule of law.

The US resolution was never about human rights alone. The very same day that the resolution was passed, the US State Department announced that defense sales to the Sri Lankan government would become less restrictive.

Even though the State Department has said that the two developments are not connected to one another, this is a discouraging announcement. It, among other considerations, makes it seem like the resolution at the HRC was mostly about power and the US, yet again, exerting its influence on a small, developing country for reasons less noble than those which are advertised.

5 comments
4 comments
john
john

finally truth comes out ...but resolution not much powerful against srrilanka so may be there change in resolution is better for the people who died in srilanka and people who murdered by srilanka

Diego
Diego

Another very good piece, Bateman. I am interested to see what GoSL's "action plan" for the implementation of the LLRC recommendations is going to look like.

forbetterworld
forbetterworld

Very good analyses. For the first time the whole world has come to know the genocide The ruthless Rajapakshe regime has an agenda to destroy the Tamils,their culture and identity.By the time the International community wakes up he would have completed his agenda. The holocaust was found as a postmortem. This genocide will not even have a postmortem !

Hue_Manity
Hue_Manity

The passage of the Resolution at UN HRC calling for accountability and just peace in Sri Lanka is very significant. However, as Bateman points out, the contradictory US stand on military aid is very counterproductive. There is reliable information that the Administration (read Defense) wants to placate Lankan government with millions in military aid. This is not just a carrot and stick policy, more like a Golden Carrot and balsa stick policy. This cheapens the heroic efforts of Ambassador Donahoe, Under Sec. Otero and others made to pass the Sri Lanka Resolution, and sends ambiguous signal that the prime concern of the Administration may not be human rights concern after all. Senator Leahy has his work cut out for him on Sri Lanka after the embarrassing $1.3B aid approved by Sec. Clinton to the Egyptian military rulers.

Usdo
Usdo

Thank you for an insightful article. Opening up armament sales to Sri Lanka, considering that its indiscriminate use of arms killed 1000s of civilians is not only reckless, but is also a callous disregard for the Tamil people and only emphasizes the levels the US will stoop to secure its interests in the island. The officers who make these decisions are like chimpanzees given a machine gun. Sri Lanka is prostituting itself to the highest bidder and the shameless nations are stampeding over corpses of Tamil civilians, still rotting from the 2009 war to make their bids.

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