UN rights body faces test over Sri Lanka, Darfur

[TamilNet, Sunday, 17 September 2006, 17:48 GMT]
Days after Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court declared that rulings by the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in Geneva can be ignored if they go against the country’s constitution, international rights activists said the UN body needs to take action on crises in Sri Lanka and Darfur to secure its credibility and usher in a new era of rights monitoring.

International rights groups want the UN forum, launched this year to succeed the largely-discredited U.N. Commission on Human Rights, to confront a wide range of violations when it opens its second regular session on Monday.

"This is going to be the session which tell us whether the Council is serious. Now is the time for action," Reed Brody, legal counsel of the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, told Reuters in an interview.

"There are a number of areas like Sri Lanka and Darfur where it could take action to save lives," he said.

Brody said the Council should send fact-finding missions and support the deployment of human rights monitors in places where civilians are at risk, including Sri Lanka.

The Council was created to sidestep the bitter political acrimony and selectivity which plagued its 60-year-old predecessor, which was widely criticised for allowing rights abusers to block efforts to address atrocities.

This week’s three-week-long meeting is seen as a litmus test for the Council's 47 member states, who will have their first chance to examine and condemn atrocities after a mainly procedural initial meeting in June, Reuters reported.

But the new body is already showing worrying signs of slipping into old divisive patterns, activists warned.

"The Council's two special sessions were the old Commission at its worst. It got off on a bad foot," Peter Splinter, Amnesty International's representative in Geneva, told Reuters.

"We hope the Council will have something to say about the critical situations on the ground in Darfur and Sri Lanka which are getting much worse," he added.

Last week a five-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice (CJ) Sarath Nanda Silva ruled that Sri Lanka’s judiciary is not bound to implement UNHRC recommendations against Sri Lanka’s constitution or the legal framework, the BBC reported.

Mr. Silva also observed that Sri Lanka’s leaders “should be more responsible in signing international treaties affecting the country’s sovereignty,” the BBC Sinhala service reported.


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