Feature Article
2ND LEAD (Update)

UN Rights Chief joins her predecessors in watering down collective rights of genocide affected people

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 15 September 2020, 06:37 GMT]
Without imposing a robust follow-up on the unitary state of genocidal Sri Lanka, which withdrew its support to UN Human Rights Resolution 30/1 that failed to address genocide justice, international investigations and ensure the collective rights of the people of the occupied traditional Tamil homeland in the North-East, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet was just “encouraging” the Council to “give renewed attention to Sri Lanka, in view of the need to prevent threats to peace, reconciliation and sustainable development.” Ms Bachelet was only referring to “commitments” made by the Rajapaksa regime “since it withdrew its support for resolution 30/1”.

UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet
UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet

In her statement to the 45th session of the Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet came with the following remarks on “Sri Lanka” on Monday:

“In Sri Lanka, I am troubled that the new Government is swiftly reneging on its commitments to the Human Rights Council since it withdrew its support for resolution 30/1. Among other developments, the proposed 20th amendment to the Constitution may negatively impact on the independence of key institutions, including the National Human Rights Commission. The pardon given in March to a former Army sergeant convicted of participating in unlawful killings; appointments to key civilian roles of senior military officials allegedly involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity; and moves within the police and judiciary to thwart the investigation of such crimes, set a very negative trend. The surveillance and intimidation of victims, their families, human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers should cease immediately. I encourage the Council to give renewed attention to Sri Lanka, in view of the need to prevent threats to peace, reconciliation and sustainable development.”

There was no mention of heritage genocide taking place in the homeland of Tamil-speaking people, particularly in the East and along the border of the de-merged North-East in Mullaith-theevu and Vavuniyaa districts in the North.

Other crucial issues such as the plight of Tamil prisoners of war and the families of Tamils subjected to enforced disappearances were missing specific mention in her statement.

The collective rights of Muslims, especially at a time when the Sinhala-Buddhist extreme nationalists spearhead a targeted hate campaign against them, was avoided entirely.

At a time when the Sinhala polity is scheming an agenda to weaken further the provincial councils and to completely wipe out the concept of Tamil homeland in the North-East, the UN Rights Chief is also contributing to shifting the weight of the focus away from addressing the past crimes of the SL State.

In effect, Ms Bachelet was hinting the Council to ‘negotiate’ some sort of ‘new’ understanding with the Rajapaksa regime for continued but even more watered down engagement.

Bachelet, didn't hint whether she was seeking such understanding under Agenda Item 2 or the far less significant Agenda Item 10.

But, as far as the Tamils are concerned, she has failed to call for international investigations on genocide and at the same time failed to seek the Council to upgrade “Sri Lanka” focus from Agenda Item 2 to Agenda Item 4.

The Agenda Item 2 has been a political compromise to deal with country-specific situations outside Agenda Item 4, which is country-specific situations without prior agreement of the state in question.

When the Eezham Tamils expect the international community to at least force the SL State to go much beyond the rotten 13th Amendment based meaningless devolution towards asymmetric autonomy, the UN is now failing not only the people in the North-East of the island once again, but also the entire humanity. The UN had earlier admitted the Right to Protect (R2P) failure in the island.

The engagement-seeking and watering-down collective rights approach is aiding and abetting the genocidal Sinhalicisation of the entire island.

The approach adopted by Ms Bachelet, like her predecessors, is only going to embolden the Rajapaksa regime to strengthening the genocidal unitary state, like never before.

* * *

The Geneva discourse is defensively conceived on the part of the UN system itself.

It wants to indirectly justify the way the UN acted during the genocidal onslaught in Vanni.

The UN system wants to equate the two parties to the war in the island (GoSL and the LTTE) in the crimes. Furthermore, the question of genocide, according to the approach, was not being taken up as it would be disqualifying the chosen paradigm.

The influencing State actors, particularly the geopolitical powers such as the US under the Obama Administration were regularly and actively influencing every milestone in the roadmap to ensure their strategic access to the island. The trend continues even after the US had left the Council during the Trump Administration.

Ensuring righteousness (moral and legal justice) is not the real motive of the UNHRC discourse witnessed in Geneva so far.

As far as the influencing member states are concerned, the ‘transitional justice’ is also not intended to address the ethnic conflict in the island. In reality, it is aimed at regime-changes in Colombo.

A more in-depth analysis would reveal that the discourse is also rooted in the assumption that Tamils' claim of external right to self-determination should be invalidated.

TamilNet has time and time again exposed this agenda from none other than the horse's mouth itself:

Those demanding international investigations on genocide should be focused on asking questions, keep the Tamil masses focused on the failure of the UN system and retain their moral strength to improve the global system of humanity.

It is under these circumstances, the alternative discourse of the PPT tribunal from Dublin to Bremen gains significance.

* * *

The OISL Investigation was ‘managed’ according to the wishes of the US and the aligned powers influencing the Council and the OHCHR. Even the three independent experts appointed by the High Commissioner (Martti Ahtisaari, Ms Silvia Cartwright and the late Ms Asma Jahangir) had an advisory role only, and they were not part of the decision making, which was carried out by the OHCHR.

In February 2013, UN Human Rights Chief Navanethem Pillay in her annual report to the 22nd session of the UNHRC observed the following in her conclusion:

The High Commissioner noted the views expressed by many stakeholders in Sri Lanka, including prominent community leaders, that the attention paid by the Human Rights Council to issues of accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka had helped to create space for debate, and catalyzed positive steps forward, however limited at this stage. The High Commissioner encourages the Council to continue its engagement and build on this momentum. In this regard, she reaffirms her long-standing call for an independent and credible international investigation into alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, which could also monitor any domestic accountability process.

However Ms Pillay was excluding the allegation of genocide as she was following the paradigm which her predecessor is the architect of.

In August 2013, while visiting the island, she went to the extent of falsely claiming that “no-one uttered the word genocide” to her.

* * *

* * *

UN Human Rights High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein was asked whether there were any indication of a purported genocide when he was presenting the findings of OHCHR Investigations on Sri Lanka (OISL) Report in September 2015. He said:

“That is not something that we perceive at this stage. Had we thought that acts of genocide had been committed, of course we would have raised this in the findings. That is not to say that at a subsequent stage – once investigations were conducted – that is implausible. But, for the time being, it is not something that we perceive as having allegedly happened.”

Politicians and activists among Eezham Tamils would be deceiving themselves and their people by trading on confusing phraseology which originates from the transitional justice roadmap. As it was intended to be a slippery slope to injustice right from the beginning.

Since the end of 2009 war, statements by UNHRC chiefs for each session on the unitary state of Sri Lanka when read in its entirety falls disappointingly short of any justice for Eezham Tamil victims of genocide and enforced disappearances.

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