Differing views among Tamils on UNHRC Resolution 

Different views have emerged amongst members of the Tamil community, with civil society organisations calling for a more stringent resolution to be adopted at the 46th United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Session, whilst political parties are taking a more pragmatic approach towards the matter. 

At a press conference held in Colombo yesterday (24), the North-East Civil Forum claimed that the Zero Draft Resolution on Sri Lanka presented at the UNHRC by Members of the Core-Group on Sri Lanka (United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Montenegro and North Macedonia) does not meet even the basic expectations of the Tamil community. 

“We will be writing a letter and sending a petition to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (HCHR), the Core Group, Members States of the UNHRC and other diplomats, asking that the Zero Draft Resolution include a reference to the International Criminal Court (ICC),” Member of the North-East Civil Forum, Thawaththiru Welan Sami said. 

According to Welan Sami, the call to refer Sri Lanka to the ICC follows reports by international organisations which have pointed out that Tamils remain unaccounted for to date from the final stages of the war, and also alleged of the bombing of No Fire Zones by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and about Sri Lankan military-run “rape camps”. 

However, The Morning learns that the Ahila Ilankai Thamil Congress (AITC), the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK), and the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) which have sent a proposal to the UNHRC regarding the Zero Draft Resolution, have more “realistic expectations” at the UNHRC 46th Session. 

Meanwhile, the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), while addressing the UNHRC Session yesterday, condemned the Government of Sri Lanka’s stance on the mandatory cremation of bodies of Covid-19 victims, stating that it discriminates against the Muslim community in the country. This statement is of particular interest as the Government of Sri Lanka is believed to be counting on the support of the OIC to vote against the resolution. 

Moreover, the United States Secretary of State A. Blinken called upon the UNHRC to support resolutions which address the issue of the lack of accountability for past atrocities in Sri Lanka. Former US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the UNHRC in mid 2018, but the new Joe Biden administration announced plans earlier this month to re-engage with it. 

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena addressed the 46th UNHRC Session on 23 February, where he called upon all Member States to reject any resolution against Sri Lanka as this continued targeting of the country remains a discouraging message to sovereign States in the Global South. 

The 46th UNHRC Regular Session, held virtually this year due to travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic, would continue until 23 March. The Core Group of Countries for Sri Lanka submitted its resolution on Sri Lanka while the UNHCR Michelle Bachelet raised serious concerns regarding Sri Lanka’s human rights situation in her report earlier this year, including more recent incidents such as the mandatory cremation policy adopted by the Government. The Government responded to the report by citing inaccuracies in the report and stating that it went beyond her given mandate. 

Although the Government initially considered co-sponsoring a resolution with the Core Group, it was later learnt by The Morning that the expectations of the Core Group were not met by the Government. 

Yesterday (24), Bachelet’s report on Sri Lanka was discussed.