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India abstains from voting on Sri Lanka war crimes

March 27, 2014 19:34 IST

In a significant development, India for the first time on Thursday abstained from voting on the United States-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka on alleged human rights violation which was passed by 23 votes in favour as against 12 in opposition and 12 abstentions in the United Nation's Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In an explanation of vote given by Permanent Representative of India to the UN offices in Geneva, Dilip Sinha, said this resolution at the UNHRC imposes an "intrusive approach" of international investigative mechanism, which was counterproductive apart from being "inconsistent and impractical".

This is for the first time since 2009 India has abstained from the voting on the resolution -- 'Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka'. All three times -- 2009, 2012 and 2013 -- India voted in favour of the resolutions. He noted that unlike the resolutions in 2009, 2012 and

2013, this resolution asks the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights "investigate, assess and monitor" the human rights situation in Sri Lanka which was an "intrusive" approach that undermines national sovereignty.

"It has been India's firm belief that adopting an intrusive approach that undermines national sovereignty and institutions is counterproductive. Any significant departure from the core principle of constructive international dialogue and cooperation has the potential to undermine efforts of

Human Rights Council for promoting universal respect for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms," he said.

Moreover, any external investigative mechanism with an open-ended mandate to monitor national processes for protection of human rights in a country was not reflective of the constructive approach of dialogue and cooperation envisaged by earlier UN General Assembly resolutions, he added.

"India has always been of the view that the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka provided a unique opportunity to pursue a lasting political settlement, acceptable to all communities in Sri Lanka, including the Tamils," the explanation given of India's vote said.

"India believes that this council's efforts should contribute to a state's own efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights. We are strongly supportive of Sri Lanka's continued engagement with the OHCHR.

"We encourage the high commissioner to continue to provide technical assistance in accordance with the relevant HRC resolutions. We are also supportive of close engagement of UN special procedures with the Government of Sri Lanka," it said.

India noted that in the past year, there have been some notable developments in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan government has honoured its commitment to the international community to hold elections to the northern provincial council. Further, it has taken steps to implement some of the important recommendations of Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, such as the Trilingual Policy, promoting the official use of the Tamil language and the upgrading of schools in the northern and eastern Provinces, the statement said.

India said the implementation of LLRC recommendations lies at the core of reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka. "We call for effective and timely implementation of all the constructive recommendations contained in the LLRC Report including those pertaining to missing persons, detainees, reduction of 'high security zones', return of private lands by the military and withdrawal of security forces from the civilian domain in the Northern Province," the statement said.

"We call on the Government of Sri Lanka to make purposeful efforts to fulfill its commitments, including on the devolution of political authority through the full implementation of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution of Sri Lanka and build upon it," it said.

Sri Lanka's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Ravinatha Aryasinha, criticised the resolution as a "serious breach of international law".

He said the resolution eroded the sovereignty of his country and would not help the reconciliation process.

The resolution noted that UN rights chief Navi Pillay had herself demanded an "international inquiry mechanism in the absence of a credible national process with tangible results".

Pillay's office will now be tasked with investigating events between 2002 and 2009, the year Sri Lanka crushed a nearly three decades-old insurgency by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Image: A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest against Sri Lanka for alleged war crimes

Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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