Archive for the 'Sri Lanka' Category

U.N. blacks out memo admitting Human Rights Council failure on Sri Lanka accountability

The U.N. censored an internal memo showing how top officials recognized the failure of the world body’s Human Rights Council when it came to seeking accountability for Sri Lanka’s killing of an estimated 40,000 civilians in 2009.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had established a Panel of Experts to look into the conflict and its aftermath. One of the recommendations of its 2011 report was for the Human Rights Council “to reconsider its May 2009 Special Session resolution regarding Sri Lanka, in light of this report.”

That session, called by the European Union, had been hijacked by Sri Lanka’s allies, and ended up praising the Sri Lankan government, rather than condemning its atrocities.

A second recommendation asked for the U.N. to conduct “a comprehensive review of action by the United Nations system during the war in Sri Lanka and the aftermath, regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates.” Ban Ki-moon established a follow-up panel to do just that.

The second panel’s conclusions were released on 14 November 2012. The panel found that “the United Nations system failed to meet its responsibilities, highlighting, in particular, the roles played by the Secretariat, the agencies and programmes of the United Nations country team, and the members of the Security Council and Human Rights Council.”

The published report included several parts that were blacked out. Inner City Press published the same document, noting how the blacked-out parts are readable by a simple copy-paste. Continue reading ‘U.N. blacks out memo admitting Human Rights Council failure on Sri Lanka accountability’

U.N. Rights Council Sings Sri Lanka’s Praises

The U.N. Human Rights Council just examined Sri Lanka’s human rights record as part of its periodic review of all countries.

While Canada notably asked genuine and specific questions, consistent with the purpose of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism to scrutinize governments and improve the lives of victims, as did New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, many others took the floor solely to praise.

See for example from the U.N. summary:

  • China congratulated Sri Lanka for its “socio-economic developments and national reconciliation, its establishment of national human rights instruments and its progress in resettling IDPs and combating poverty.”
  • Iran “commended Sri Lanka for considerable achievements in restoration of civil administration, infrastructure and economic development in the north and east of Sri Lanka affected by the internal conflict.”
  • Spain applauded “progress made in promoting and protecting human rights.” Continue reading ‘U.N. Rights Council Sings Sri Lanka’s Praises’

Sri Lanka clueless on exit of key allies China & Russia from UN rights council

Sri Lankans worried over their government’s failure to block a recent UN resolution on its 2009  mass killings of Tamil civilians now have even greater reason to doubt the competence of Colombo officials.

According to a report today in Sri Lanka’s Sunday Leader, the government is concerned that four countries who voted with it in the March session of the UN Human Rights Council, including key allies China and Russia, are to see their terms end in June, putting them in a poorer position to defend the country when it goes before its automatic quadrennial review in October.

But the government is completely wrong.

In fact, the membership terms this year end in December (see UN website here). Their October concern is moot — China and Russia will both still be full members. How the Sri Lankan government could be ignorant of such key facts ought to raise serious questions among its citizens.

Note to Colombo: From 2006-2011, UNHRC elections were held each year in May, and members rotated on and off in June. The new system beginning in 2013 will have membership coincide with the calendar year. In this transitional year, members like China and Russia get an extra six months, exiting in December 2012 instead of June 2012. Elections for the new 2013 members are expected in the fall.

States debate Sri Lanka resolution text

The US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, Eileen Donahoe, chaired today an informal session to introduce their resolution on reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka.

During one of the most dramatic informal consultations –with a UN security guard by the doors– the Sri Lankan Attorney-General challenged the premise and necessity of this draft, which he categorically rejected and refused to engage in a dialogue on it. He called the consultation a “farce,” adding that “might is not right.” He was supported by Egypt on behalf of NAM, Russia, China, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Philippines, Algeria and other NAM countries. They all stressed that they oppose country-specific resolution and that the text will have no effect without the consent of the concerned country. Cuba challenged the US Ambassador by asking her to submit a resolution on Guantanamo if they are so concerned with accountability issues.

Denmark for the EU, France, the UK, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Norway and others supported the US initiative, calling it timely and necessary. The EU also said they would like to see a reference in the text to the report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka. One of their recommendations is for the Council to reverse its resolution praising Sri Lanka for its actions during the 2009 civil war that left thousands of civilians dead.

Is Syrian ambassador to UN rights council planning to defect?

Tomorrow will see Foreign Ministers descend on Geneva for the opening of the first 2012 session of the UN Human Rights Council.

At a recent UN press conference, U.S. Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe offered a good review of what’s ahead. Click here for the transcript, and here for the audio. Reuters asked about UN Watch’s protest over Libya’s vehement attack against gays (minute 16:00).

Of note:

  • The Syrian envoy to the UN rights council,  Faysal Hamoui, hasn’t been seen in a while, and, alluding to the Libyans’ defection last year, Ambassador Donahoe hinted that he may be planning the same:

Continue reading ‘Is Syrian ambassador to UN rights council planning to defect?’

Sri Lanka’s Ex-Ambassador: “I blocked UN rights council from investigating our war”

Sri Lanka’s former ambassador to the UN in Geneva, who used to regularly deluge diplomats and activists with multi-megabyte emails and photos detailing his latest activities, is claiming credit for blocking an attempted UN Human Rights Council inquiry into his country’s war with the Tamils.

According to Dayan Jayatilleka, “Even the Richard Goldstone report on Gaza got only 25 votes, but we managed to secure 29 for Sri Lanka at the special session.”

The ex-envoy spoke of his radical Marxist past, and his connection with “dear friends” such as Jean Ziegler, the 1989 co-founder of the Moammar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize, and recently-elected VP of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee.

The double-talk of Sri Lanka’s U.N. ambassador

After he successfully blocked a war-crimes probe into the conflict in Sri Lanka, why is the country’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, being recalled? Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleka himself offers two different explanations.

Last month, at the U.N. Conference on the Question of Palestine in Geneva, he blamed Israel. “I’m leaving because of protests Israel made about my speeches [condemning Israel’s military operations in Gaza],” he told the gathering on July 23.

In the same statement, Jayatilleka also urged Palestinians to reconsider focusing their “resistance” operations at “soft targets” — not for reasons of morality or international law, but because to do otherwise “plays into the hands of the international media,” he said. “One photo of a rocket and a Jewish kid hiding in a cellar and you get the whole Holocaust narrative all over again,” he complained.

However, a recent article in The Economist quotes Jayatilleka giving a completely different reason (“Behind the Rajapaksa brothers’ smiles,” Aug. 6). “Mr Jayatilleka’s offence, he believes, was to have advocated regional devolution in a newspaper. ‘I thought I was operating within the bounds of government policy,’ he laments.”

So who’s responsible for Ambassador Jayatilleka’s departure, the Sri Lankans or the Israelis? Did the diplomat known for provocative speeches sacrifice his posting on the scenic shores of Lake Geneva for the noble cause of Palestine, or power-sharing with the Tamil minority?

Depends, it seems, on whom one is talking to.

Cuba and Sri Lanka Attack UN Watch & Other Human Rights NGOs

During today’s debate on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism at the UN Human Rights Council, a number of Western states voiced concerns about barriers to the full participation of legitimate NGOs in the UPR process, with the U.S. saying it is “troubled by practices of countries seeking to silence criticism by lining up friendly speakers. This has a chilling effect on the purpose and spirit of the UPR.” Continue reading ‘Cuba and Sri Lanka Attack UN Watch & Other Human Rights NGOs’

Sri Lanka Repays Rights-Abusing Allies with Lavish Praise

Over the last couple days at the UN Human Rights Council, abusive States praised one another’s rights records during the sessions to adopt reports on human rights violations in countries under review. This is not surprising considering that the same phenomenon was evident during the working groups for these Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports, where rights-abusing countries played a tit for tat strategy of mutual praise, rather than undertaking genuine efforts to review and critique one another’s rights records. (Click here for UN Watch report, entitled “Mutual Praise Society,” detailing this trend). Continue reading ‘Sri Lanka Repays Rights-Abusing Allies with Lavish Praise’

Rights Violating States Attempt Response to Accusations

Today at the U.N. Human Rights Council, after a number of states and NGOs accused Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, China, and North Korea of violating human rights, these countries demanded their rights of reply to respond to allegations or deflect blame by pointing to purported abuses of their critics. Continue reading ‘Rights Violating States Attempt Response to Accusations’

New low: U.N. rights council praises Sri Lanka after mass killings

 Today’s U.N. Human Rights Council special session on Sri Lanka (click for UN Watch speech) ended in disgrace, with the U.N. lavishing praise on the very government it was meant to hold to account. Following is the play-by-play.

First, Sri Lanka proposed an updated revised text of its self-congratulatory resolution. Though this incorporated some of the non-contentious proposals of the Swiss-EU draft, the text remained a shameful distortion of reality and of human rights. Continue reading ‘New low: U.N. rights council praises Sri Lanka after mass killings’

Human Rights Council continues Special Session on situation of human rights in Sri Lanka

Click here for the full U.N. Human Rights Council summary of the morning meeting May 27 of the Special Session on Sri Lanka.

Click here for previous blog posting on Algeria, Syria speeches: “Algeria, Syria allege ‘double standards’ in Sri Lanka session”

Highlights from U.N. summary:

Continue reading ‘Human Rights Council continues Special Session on situation of human rights in Sri Lanka’

UN Watch slams Sri Lankan violations in speech to UN Human Rights Council

UN Watch Oral Statement to the
UN Human Rights Council Special Session on Human Rights in Sri Lanka
Delivered by Marissa Cramer, Geneva, 27 May 2009


On Protecting Human Rights vs. “Internal Affairs”

Thank you, Mr. President.

UN Watch is alarmed by the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, and calls for immediate action to help all innocent victims.

Continue reading ‘UN Watch slams Sri Lankan violations in speech to UN Human Rights Council’

Libyan front group slams U.N. human rights session, sides with Sri Lanka and Non-Aligned bloc

In a speech to the UN Human Rights Council today, the Libyan-sponsored group “Nord Sud 21”, founded in 1989 to manage the Moammar Kaddafi Human Rights Prize, criticized the session on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, echoing the argument of the Sri Lankan government and its allies that only countries “from the region” should be entitled to call a session, and not Western states.

Algeria, Syria allege “double standards” in Sri Lanka session

Today at the U.N. Human Rights Council, debate continued at the special session on Sri Lanka, where ten thousand civilians have been killed since December, and hundreds of thousands are in dire need, as explained at the session’s opening yesterday by High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

Still, several continued to complain that the session is unnecessary, with Arab and Muslim states additionally trying to change the subject by bringing up, expressly or by implication, conflict situations involving Israel, or Western states in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Continue reading ‘Algeria, Syria allege “double standards” in Sri Lanka session’

Debate rages at Sri Lanka session

At the U.N. Human Rights Council today, a special session was held to address the urgent situation in Sri Lanka. While the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the EU and other Western states pushed for a commission of inquiry to assess the human rights violations of both the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government, a number of countries and regional groups used the session to praise Sri Lanka and rail against the states who called for the session. Continue reading ‘Debate rages at Sri Lanka session’

Cuba and other “Non-Aligned” U.N. envoys tried to block emergency meeting on Sri Lanka

This letter sent on May 15 by Cuba to the U.N. Human Rights Council shows how the Havana regime and its allies in the Non-Aligned Movement, which include numerous other repressive states, tried to use diplomatic tactics to block international scrutiny of Sri Lanka’s human rights violations. Fortunately, this one failed, and the session will be held tomorrow. However, other measures are being employed by the rogues, who dominate the council, to erode the final resolution.

Sri Lankan U.N. envoy lashes out at Western “colonizers” over emergency meeting of human rights council

Today at the U.N. Human Rights Council informal consultations were held on the draft text for the special session on Sri Lanka to be held this Tuesday. The meeting was chaired by Muriel Berset of Switzerland, sponsor of the text, along with representatives of the European Union (the Czech Republic), Chile and Mexico. The group took pains to emphasize their “cooperative” and “consensus” approach, underscoring the special deference shown to Sri Lanka in contrast to the approach taken toward other countries that the council has censured — Israel, 26 times; Myanmar, 4 times; and North Korea, twice. Continue reading ‘Sri Lankan U.N. envoy lashes out at Western “colonizers” over emergency meeting of human rights council’

Human Rights Council President: “We are not subverts”

This morning’s organizational meeting for the 11th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council began with a presentation of the session’s draft agenda by the council’s president, Nigerian Ambassador Martin Uhomoibhi. He noted that the session will begin the afternoon of June 2 and will include panel discussions on the topics of women’s human rights and climate change.

Controversy over potential Sri Lanka panel
But controversy erupted when the president discussed the need to “creatively use panel discussions,” widely perceived as a means to address the urgent human rights situations not on the council’s agenda, specifically, the situation in Sri Lanka. (It is still uncertain whether or not the required 16 signatures have been reached to call for a special session on that issue). He said that further specific details on the panel will be provided at a later date.

Continue reading ‘Human Rights Council President: “We are not subverts”’

Sri Lanka to Oversee Asian Declaration for UN Durban II Racism Conference

The UN originally intended to organize major regional meetings around the world in advance of the Durban Review Conference, set for April in Geneva. In the end, however, it seems there will be no Asian, West or East European conferences.

The UN had spoken of an Asian meeting in September in Bangkok but it seems that won’t happen. Instead, the Asian ambassadors in Geneva are reportedly preparing their own “outcome document” — see report below from Sri Lanka, which will facilitate drafting of the text– to feed into the final declaration in April. Such texts are called “outcome documents” for being the outcome of a particular conference. Yet now we will an outcome without there ever having been a conference.

Sounds odd, but in a way it’s more honest: the African declaration was all cooked up in Geneva beforehand, with the brief meeting in Abuja, mostly held behind closed doors, entirely dominated by Geneva-based diplomats and UN officials, who flew in to Nigeria merely to create the pretense of holding an African event.

If you thought the African text was bad — it failed to hold a single African country accountable for performance on racism, thereby failing the stated mission of the conference — the Asian one threatens to be worse. Recall that in 2001, after meeting in Tehran, the Asian outcome document singled out Israel for “ethnic cleansing” and of a “new kind of apartheid, a crime against humanity.”


News report from pro-government Sri Lankan newspaper:

Run-Up to UN Anti-Racism Conference

Upon recommendation by the Ambassador/Permanent Representative of China, the Asian Group Co-ordinator, the Asian Group of the United Nations Human Rights Council has appointed Sri Lanka’s Ambassador Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka as the facilitator to negotiate an outcome document of the Asian Region, as a contribution to the preparatory process of the Durban Review Conference.

The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance was held in Durban, South Africa in 2001 and produced the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which provided an important new framework for combating racism and intolerance with a wide range of action-oriented measures.

The Review Conference of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action has been scheduled to be held in Geneva, Switzerland from 20-24 April 2009 to evaluate progress towards the goals set by the 2001 World Conference. For this purpose Regional Groups are requested to contribute by providing inputs to the above Review Conference.

Against this backdrop Ambassador Jayatilleka has been appointed as Facilitator by the Asian Group to negotiate an outcome document of the Asian Region in order to provide inputs from the Asian Region to the above Review Conference.

Latin America and African Regions already had their Regional Meetings in Brasilia and Abuja respectively and have prepared their inputs to the above Review Conference.

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