A Sri Lankan attorney has attempted to put together a case study that depicts a very sinister move by the UN to subvert international laws and create precedents that would detrimentally affect other nations as well. Taking the reports of the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts, the Human Rights Council as well as the Human Rights Commissioners oral reports and recommendations, Dharshan Weerasekera shows that not only there is an illegality involved in the manner three resolutions led to a call for an international investigation but highlights how resolutions and reports that started out being about the last phase of the war ended up maligning Sri Lanka on a plethora of non-conflict related other matters that should have been dealt through the other UN systems in existence.
Dharshan Weerasekera’s first book ‘The UN’s Relentless Pursuit of Sri Lanka’ combined three essays on the resolutions of 2012, 2013 and 2014 that appeared in the Foreign Policy Journal. The present book relooks at the three resolutions alongside the Panel of Expert Reports as well as the Sri Lankan Government’s own domestic mechanism the LLRC (Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission) and the National Action Plan.
The author takes the reader through the timeline of events, starting out with how a 30-year-conflict ended in May 2009. He also points out to the manner that rebel groups are often connected to foreign interests and funded and cites the case of the ISIS. It is a known fact that while Tamil militants were initially trained by India in the 1970s; the LTTE became a surrogate of the West thereafter as seen by the manner Indian former PM Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in India.
How is it then that immediately following the May 2009 defeat of the LTTE which led to a Germany-led Resolution at the UNHRC against Sri Lanka ultimately ended up with a counter-resolution favorable to Sri Lanka commending the nation for eliminating terrorism and wishing Sri Lanka for the daunting post-war challenges. This resolution confirms that the LTTE kept hostages against their will and that the GOSL liberated tens of thousands of citizens kept by the LTTE.
How did commendations and well-wishes by the UNHRC turn into successive resolutions calling for international investigations? Dharshan Weerasekera takes us to May 23, 2009 days after the conflict ended with the arrival of the UN Secretary General whose joint statement continues to be repeated as confirmation of agreement by the GOSL to conduct an international investigation. However citing the joint statement itself
“The Secretary General underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, the GOSL will take measures to address those grievances”.
These lines do not show the GOSL agreeing to conduct any such domestic investigation.
However, obviously due to relentless pressures brought upon by Western governments, threats of cutting aid and other under hand tactics diplomatically used the GOSL consented to implementing in March 2010 the LLRC. However, in June 2010 the UNSG appoints a three-member panel to appraise him of the last phase of Sri Lanka’s conflict.
What readers are required to take note of is that the Panel of Experts (POE) appointed by the UNSG was outside the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council and was a panel appointed in his personal capacity of UNSG to appraise him. This then leads any to ask how such a personal appraisal led to become the foundation on which successive resolutions against Sri Lanka and became quoted by the UN Human Rights Commissioner herself in her 3 reports advocating an investigation against Sri Lanka.
Moreover, Dharshan Weerasekera also highlights that the POE was never officially tabled at the UNHRC officially giving Sri Lanka the right to defend itself.
Weerasekera also shows that despite the March 2014 resolution advocating an international investigation in terms of vote while 23 members voted to authorize the investigation, 12 voted against and 12 abstained and the 12 abstentions cannot be taken as being favorable and these included India while the Pakistan Ambassador reminded the Council that paragraph 10 of the resolution was inconsistent with the principles of the UN Charter and said that the resolution was about ‘politics’ and not human rights and that it was a ‘crass example of hypocrisy and double-standards’.
The book takes us through the argument that while the GOSL appointed the LLRC and from that took recommendations to draw up a National Action Plan, if the Human Rights Council or the High Commissioner knew of allegations that were not included into the LLRC what they should have rightly done was to give evidence of these allegations and officially requested the GOSL to look into them. Without presenting the allegations, giving the evidence for these allegations or from where they emerged the Council or the High Commissioner has no right to chide Sri Lanka and bring about resolutions accusing the GOSL for not looking into these ‘credible allegations’. When looking at the resolutions together, as advised by Dharshan Weerasekera, it reveals how Sri Lanka is being accused of not investigating credible allegations but not being told what these allegations are with evidence.
What the author argues is that the High Commissioner can only demand the GOSL to investigate what is recommended in the LLRC. The Council or the Commissioner cannot with each year add issues to reports and plug it to the POE or initial resolutions and indict the GOSL and charge Sri Lanka for war crimes as is being done. Paragraph 10 that the Pakistan Ambassador refers to says that the High Commissioners recommendations for ongoing violations are the immediate reason for the investigation’ but is there such a situation of ongoing violations to necessitate an international investigation? Moreover as the author rightly points out she did not initially quote ‘ongoing violations’ to require investigation why is she resorting to that argument now? All these show that in the absence of a prima facie case for an international investigation the High Commissioner and the Council are grasping at straws to validate the recommendation for an international investigation.
What readers are compelled to look at as advised by the author is that calls for the involvement of the Human Rights Council and to conduct investigations to ongoing violations of human rights laws are when there are situations that involve killing hundreds of people, causing immense property damage and as examples the author cites – Israel-Palestine, Congo, Darfur,Libya , Syria and Ivory Coast.
The UN’s subversion of international law : The Sri Lanka Story by Attorney Dharshan Weerasekera is a 135 page book that includes all of the three Resolutions, the key points of the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Expert Report, the GOSL’s LLRC and National Action Plan, the oral and other reports filed by the High Commissioner and provides readers a refreshing argument in simple and easy to read language of the illegality of the resolutions and the international investigation being recommended and provides a solution as well – the possibility of taking legal action against the UN, the Human Rights Commissioner and the Human Rights Council.