Active Citizens, Aid, Armed Conflicts, Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Democracy, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Featured, Global Geopolitics, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Peace, Regional Categories, TerraViva Europe, TerraViva United Nations

Human Rights

Sri Lanka Prepares for Geneva Showdown

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa (right) with Ravinatha Ariyasinha, Sri Lanka’s top diplomat at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Sri Lanka faces a tough resolution at the ongoing council sessions. Credit: Presidential Media Unit.

COLOMBO, Mar 24 2014 (IPS) - As Sri Lanka steadfastly refuses any external inquiry into human rights abuses allegedly committed when the government pushed a military victory over Tamil rebels in its decades-long sectarian conflict, right groups say the global community is left with no option but to push for an international investigation.

The South Asian island nation faces a critical U.S.-backed resolution this week at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

“It’s likely just another delaying tactic on the government’s part, trying to give the impression that it is doing the right thing." -- Polly Truscott, deputy Asia Pacific director at Amnesty International

This will be the third such resolution at the UNHRC since 2012, but the first that is widely expected to call for an international probe into abuses committed during the last stages of the civil war in Sri Lanka that ended in May 2009.

The government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa views any external intervention as undermining the sovereignty of the country.

“We have reached the point where it is too late to hope that Sri Lanka will actually investigate its own alleged human rights violations,” Polly Truscott, deputy Asia Pacific director at Amnesty International (AI), told IPS.

“After years of empty promises by the government, it is now up to the international community to establish an independent war crimes investigation into the Sri Lankan conflict,” she said.

Other groups that have called for an international probe include Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group and the International Commission of Jurists.

“We believe there is a strong chance that the UNHRC will institute an international inquiry at this session,” Sheila Varadan, international legal advisor with the South Asia programme at the International Commission of Jurists, told IPS.

“It may not immediately affect the behaviour of the Sri Lankan government, but it will send a strong message that the international community is not willing to give up on accountability.”

The country’s sectarian war, which began in the early 1980s, saw the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fight government forces for over two-and-a-half decades. The LTTE was demanding a separate state for minority Tamils in the north. The war ended in May 2009 with the defeat of the LTTE, but not before more than 70,000 people had been killed.

Ahead of the UNHRC sessions, Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the Sri Lankan President, said countries critical of Sri Lanka preferred to turn a blind eye to the good work done by the government in the north.

Talking to a select group of correspondents at the President’s Colombo residence, he said the government had spent over 4.5 billion dollars on development work in the north, building highways and large infrastructure projects. He said over 94 percent of mined areas had been cleared in less than five years.

“Where on earth would you get this kind of work?” Weeratunga asked, arguing that the government needed more time on delicate issues like power-sharing and reconciliation.

The government has begun working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on surveying the needs of missing people’s families, ICRC officials in Colombo told IPS. Weeratunga said the government was awaiting the recommendations of the Presidential Commission on missing persons later this year.

Critics of the Rajapaksa administration, however, say such action is too little too late, and merely cosmetic.

Truscott said, “It is difficult not to conclude that the commission on disappearances is little more than window dressing for the international community. Sri Lanka has a long history of setting up similar commissions at politically opportune moments, only to accomplish very little.

“It’s likely just another delaying tactic on the government’s part, trying to give the impression that it is doing the right thing, while actually just attempting to avoid genuine accountability.”

Varadan spoke along similar lines. “National processes cannot be relied upon to produce any credible investigations. Independence of the judiciary has been significantly undermined.

“The only real option for fact-finding is international investigations,” she said.

The government says such opinions are the creation of pressure groups and aggressive lobbying by international supporters of the LTTE.

Rajapaksa said earlier this month that domestic pressures had influenced the anti-Sri Lanka stance taken by the United Kingdom and Canada. “It is because of the Tamil diaspora voters. They have to satisfy their voters,” he said.

He said the government in neighbouring India, which is facing a general election, could also be swayed to support the resolution due to pressure from its southern state Tamil Nadu.

There is also fear that due to an impending trip by U.S. President Barack Obama later in April, Sri Lanka could lose the support of another traditional backer, Japan.

Weeratunga said some of those who were aggressively criticising Sri Lanka could not even locate the island on a map. “If they move a resolution on a country which they do not know, that is unfair,” he said.

Sri Lanka is assured of at least some heavyweight support at the UNHRC – that of China and Russia – and government diplomats tell IPS that a large bloc of African and Latin American countries are also likely to come out in support.

Republish | | Print | |En español

Related Tags

  • vishnubrakmamaheswar

    Racism is the reason.
    35 years of Tamil tiger terrorism supported and coached by Norway ,UK only cause death and destruction to brown people.
    that was 30 years of daily 9/11, daily Boston marathon bombings yet
    Brown peoples lives have less or no value .
    WAR is a business.
    Make money at any cost.
    South Afrika is poverty stricken nation their wealth is still looted .
    Miners are shot at.
    International community is 150 nations, US/Uk/Russia /China /France are predator nations.
    They live on looting- economic hit men.
    Srilankans need unity.

  • vishnubrakmamaheswar

    UN is a rubber stamp agency that help the loot.
    Indian peace keepers raped tamil girls, one of those raped garlanded Rajiv and gave him invitation to his hell or heaven.
    If Srilankans allow others Racist nations and their henchmen like India it will be grim
    Indian foot soldiers conquered the world for their masters.
    Now the west is using Indians – who lack self esteem – as their foot soldiers.
    Indians – majority of who are brown in complexion are eternally obsessed of becoming white will be British looters cannon fodder.

  • Tim_S

    “Where on earth would you get this kind of work?” Weeratunga asked, arguing that the government needed more time on delicate issues like power-sharing and reconciliation.

    This is a joke!

    They have had more than 30 years to devolve power and they have failed to do!

    The Sri-Lankan government has not even implemented the limited devolution proposed
    in the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987!

    The regime is good at delaying tactics and deception!

  • Tim_S


    How about the state-sponsored terrorism and violence of the
    past 40 years?

    How about the mass graves all over the country?

    Why don’t you Google the following and find out?

    Mass Graves in Sri-Lanka

    War Crimes in Sri-Lanka

    Race Riots in Sri-Lanka

  • Tim_S

    How about the following:

    Lasantha Wickramatunga (Journalist) – murdered in January 2009.

    Prageeth Eknaligoda (Journalist) – abducted in January 2010.

    Khuram Shaikh (British tourist) – murdered in Sri-Lanka in December 2011.

    Viktoria Aleksandrovna – gang raped in December 2011.

    Why has no one been convicted for the above?

    The Mass Graves all over the country.

    All the race riots and looting organised by the government:

    In 2004, the previous President Chandrika Kumaratunga gave a public apology to Tamils for Black July, likening it to NAZISM.

    How many people have been convicted for Black July in 1983?

  • Tim_S

    You are hired by the regime for $1 day to post silly comments!

    No one will take your stupid comments seriously!

    An article on the Economist Website, “Letting the general out of the bottle”
    published on 23 May 2012 stated that people are given 100 rupees (50 pence) and a pack of rice to participate in demonstrations!

  • Tim_S

    “Rajapaksa said earlier this month that domestic pressures had influenced the anti-Sri Lanka stance taken by the United Kingdom and Canada. “It is because of the Tamil diaspora voters. They have to satisfy their voters,” he said.”

    Absolute rubbish!

    There are around 300,000 Tamils in the UK and a similar number in Canada.
    UK’s population is 60 million and Canada’s 35 million!

  • Deva

    7000 odd tamils died in final stages are collateral damage.Afterall most tamils supported LTTE. Poor tamils in SL had to sacrifice their lives to keep manic diasporas elam dream. Singhalese soldgers sacrificed their lives to give freedom to SL tamils. Be grateful to MR.

  • Tim_S

    You got to be kidding!

    This is what Gotabaya Rajapaksa told “The Australian” newspaper on 23 March 2009:

    The UN may tell you that at least 2000 civilians have been killed in fighting since January, but Sri Lanka’s Secretary of Defence, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, says there are none. Absolutely none.

    “If you want to believe me, believe me, NO civilian casualties!

    In 2009, the Rajapaksa regime arrested five doctors who worked in the War-zone and forced them to tell the media that a maximum of 750 civilians were killed in the final five months of the war!

  • Tim_S

    In 2011, the regime claimed that around 7,500 civilians were killed!

    It first dismissed Channel 4’s Sri-Lanka Killing Field programme as a fake. It then said last year that it would use the programme to investigate allegations of War Crimes!

    A UN investigation said 40,000 people were killed in the final five months alone!

    So far not a single person has been convicted!

  • Tim_S

    If the Rajapaksa regime has done such an amazing job of “freeing Tamils”, why do you think the regime is scared of an international investigation?

    Why has not the regime done a proper investigation into all the murders, disappearances and mass graves?

    Tamils need to be freed from Singhalese terror that has been unleashed on them more than 30 years ago! The terror still continues!

  • Tim_S

    Impunity has long been the rule in Sri-Lanka where violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law are concerned, because successive governments wanted it that way.

    Human remains of 200 people were discovered in Matale in December 2012.

    Politicians belonging to the JVP party allege that the victims were killed having been
    tortured and that the heads, arms and legs of many of them had been severed.

    The then government was widely accused of running torture chambers in the area in the late 1980s and of conducting extra-judicial executions. As many as 60,000 JVP
    insurgents were reportedly killed.

    According to the Sri Lankan defence ministry website, the military’s coordinating officer and then commanding officer in the area at the time was Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

    According to Polly Truscott of Amnesty International:

    “Other mass graves in Sri Lanka have uncovered the remains of victims of alleged enforced disappearances and exhumations have not always been carried out with the necessary care.”

    In a BBC interview with Sir David Frost on 28 October 2001, the former Sri-Lankan
    President Chandrika Kumaratunga said that Sri-Lanka had killing fields; there
    was a lot of terror perpetrated by the government itself, STATE TERROR.

  • vishnubrakmamaheswar

    you do, British brought so called low caste oppressed people from India ill treated those ,raped their women,whipped them .
    Half tamils who are like tambiah turned tim are trying hard to be British.

  • vishnubrakmamaheswar

    this one guy who coughs on behalf of Terrorist tamil tiger suicide bombers as multiple avatars- Jay ,Tim,Roger then Lord Siva .He /She /may by the eunuch is one of those half tamils, who is still searching for his identity, even her/his mother is not sure of who the Pop is.
    Half tamils who live in the west , exploit their parents to do baby sitting for them lock them up in their apartment get them to cook for them.
    I have taken care of such Depressed -dementing old folks in Scarborough Canada.
    They are used to crap into the river where they drank from.
    Good tamils with dignity never do such.

  • vishnubrakmamaheswar

    Tim tambahia or Jayam,Roger whatever mode you are in You need to stop wasting time.You live in an ideal place stay there.
    Don’t hurt poor srilankans by exporting terror again getting together with u r masters.

  • vishnubrakmamaheswar

    get some Olanzapine good for both delusional disorders and Mania , but that won’t make U white .u will be wog 4 ever.

  • ranjith lal

    Navi pillay, Negrito lindo, equivocaste el camino .

  • Antany Peter

    It is extremely disappointing to see that the Sri Lankan leaders have not learned anything from the past sixty five years, especially through the brutal civil war. Challenging India, the West and Tamil diaspora is nothing but a suicidal move. The Rajapaksa regime can’t act like India, America or Russia by living in that tiny island. India created the LTTE to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, because of the President JR’s ignorance and arrogance attitude towards India; however President JR realized what he had done and quickly backed off by accepting the 13th amendment. But the Rajapaksa regime is too arrogant and foolish. The Rajapaksa brothers are not smart; therefore, they won’t back down as President JR. The West hijacked the civil war from India and brain drain the country, in order to develop the West. India did not suffer that much compare to Sri Lanka. The Real winner was the West. I bet the US backed UNHRC resolution would lead to the same path. The West has been ruling the world for the last 700 years; its knowledge and power are beyond the comprehension of the Sinhalese, Tamils, Indian and Chinese leaders. The West had defeated Germany, Japan, and almost Russia as well. Therefore, Sinhalese, Tamils, Indians and Chinese really can’t predict all of the West’s tricks in the future. Just wait and see how the West is going to spin the heads of Sinhalese, Tamils, Indians and Chinese through the resolution. Again the Sri Lankans will suffer more than others due to the foolishness of the Rajapaksa regime. Sri Lankans are very unfortunate people in Asia, yet the Rajapaksas are fooling their own people as they are the leaders of wonder of Asia. You have to be an absolute inhuman to fool the people who have suffered for thirty years through the brutal civil war. Well, you would do anything without thinking second time; if you have a heart made my iron to steal the suffering people’s Tsunami money. I rest my case!

  • Joseph

    Navi Pillay : Isn’t that a Tamil name? How come a Tamil person do an independent investigation on Tamil grief? Its like asking a mother to investigate Son’s wrong doings.
    Oh west !!!! Does mind your own damn business and don’t meddle other countries affairs.

    Navi Pillay should be sacked for turning public position to her own gain. Also, her husband has been hanging out in Geneva with LTTEs ( former )

    Terrorist are terrorist and should keep as such

  • selfplorer

    How about attacking Iraq to find chemical weapons?
    Killing Bin Laden without a trial?

  • Tim_S

    Can you read?

    Do you know what the article is about?

  • Tim_S


    Why don’t you find some Singhlese thugs and appoint them to the UN?

  • Tim_S

    What a third-world joker!

books on pattern drafting