‘Political move’: Sri Lanka urges rejection of UNHRC resolution

Sri Lanka subjected to ‘unprecedented propaganda campaign’, the foreign minister says in video address to the UN Human Rights Council.

Sri Lanka's new prime minister Dinesh Gunawardena
Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena [File: Eranga Jayawardena/AP]

Sri Lanka has urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to reject a forthcoming resolution voicing “serious concern” over the “deteriorating” rights situation in the country.

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told the council it would have to decide whether time should be spent raking over Sri Lanka or if the resolution was politically motivated.

Sri Lanka had been subjected to an “unprecedented propaganda campaign”, he said on Tuesday in a video address to the UN rights body, which is meeting virtually.

“It is regrettable that … elements working against Sri Lanka intend to table another country-specific resolution.”

Members should choose whether Sri Lanka “warrants the urgent attention of this council – or if this campaign is essentially a political move that contravenes the very values and principles on which this council has been established”, he added.

Last month, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet called for an International Criminal Court investigation into Sri Lanka’s Tamil separatist conflict and sanctions against top generals and others accused of war crimes.

Bachelet accused Sri Lanka of reneging on promises to ensure justice for thousands of civilians killed in the final stages of the 37-year separatist war that ended in 2009.

The United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Malawi, Montenegro and North Macedonia submitted a draft resolution for consideration by the 47-member Human Rights Council next month.

It is the only one tabled so far during the 46th regular session of the council, which opened on Monday and is due to run until March 23.

It “expresses serious concern over emerging trends over the past year, which represent clear early warning signs of a deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka”.

They include the “accelerating militarisation of civilian government functions, erosion of the independence of the judiciary … ongoing impunity and political obstruction of accountability for crimes … surveillance and intimidation of civil society and shrinking democratic space, arbitrary detentions, allegations of torture”.

It also voices concern that the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt freedom of religion.

It urges Colombo to ensure a “thorough and impartial investigation and, if warranted, prosecution of all allegations of gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law”.

Gunawardena said the resolution, if passed, would only result in a significant loss of morale in countries fighting “terrorism”.

“The council must hold the scales even – not going by hearsay,” he said.

Source: News Agencies