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Sri Lanka forces West to retreat over ‘war crimes’ with victory at UN

[Times Online UK, Thursday, 28 May 2009 06:40 3 Comments]

Menik_1__564025a Sri Lanka claimed a propaganda victory last night after the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution praising its defeat of the Tamil Tigers and condemning the rebels for using civilians as human shields.

China, India, Egypt and Cuba were among the 29 developing countries that backed a Sri Lankan-proposed resolution describing the conflict as a “domestic matter that doesn’t warrant outside interference”. The resolution also supported Colombo’s insistence on allowing aid group access to 270,000 civilians detained in camps only “as may be appropriate”.

The Sri Lanka Ambassador in Geneva said that European nations had failed with their “punitive and mean-spirited agenda” against his country. “This was a lesson that a handful of countries which depict themselves as the international community do not really constitute the majority,” Dayan Jayatilleka said. “The vast mass of humanity are in support of Sri Lanka.”

Western diplomats and human rights officials were shocked by the outcome at the end of an acrimonious two-day special session to examine the humanitarian and human rights situation in Sri Lanka after the blitzkrieg of the final military offensive that wiped out the Tiger force.

“The vote is extremely disappointing and is a low point for the Human Rights Council. It abandons hundreds of thousands of people in Sri Lanka to cynical political considerations,” Amnesty International said.

Sri Lanka, unable to stop the Human Rights Council taking up its case, rushed its own motion to the floor in time to beat a more censorious resolution tabled by Switzerland.

Twelve countries, mostly European and including Britain, opposed the resolution after failing to win support for their version, which called for unfettered access to detained civilians and an internal investigation of alleged war crimes by both sides.

The UN in Sri Lanka says that at least 7,000 civilians were killed in the first four months of the year alone, with the casualty rate sharply rising as the endgame approached. Many of those deaths are believed to have been caused by Sri Lankan army shelling. The Government denies that it caused a single civilian death, blaming all of them on the rebels.

Israel will be among the nations angered by last night’s result. The 47-member council, formed in 2006 to deal quickly with urgent humanitarian situations, succeeded in forcing an internal investigation on Israel over its recent offensive in Gaza, which killed an estimated 700 Palestinian civilians.

Western diplomats said that the result called into question the entire purpose of the Human Rights Council — where the 47 members sit as equals with no right of veto for any country. The United States only recently agreed to join it in the belief that the council had been reformed. Divisions between the West and the developing world were exposed last month when dozens of European and other ambassadors stormed out of the council during an inflammatory address by President Ahmadinejad of Iran.

Tom Porteous, the London director of Human Rights Watch, said: “The Human Rights Council had a chance to prove itself by calling for a serious inquiry into violations of the laws of war and human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, and they failed dismally.”

In Colombo, by contrast, there was a mood of jubilation for a government that has cast itself as a plucky minnow fighting the hypocrisy of large Western powers. Sri Lanka’s resolution passed with the support of powerful new allies such as China, which provided much of the weaponry used in its decisive defeat of the rebels.

“The support of the international community at the UNHRC is a clear endorsement of our effort to eliminate terrorism without a civilian bloodbath,” Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Sri Lankan Minister for Disaster Relief and Human Rights, said.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, had called on Tuesday for an international war crimes inquiry, saying she believed that both sides might be guilty of war crimes. The Tigers are accused of using civilians as human shields and those who fled the war have testified that rebel commanders fired on them to stop them escaping, killing many.

Of more immediate concern, though, is what the failure of the European-backed resolution will mean for the 270,000 civilians interned in camps run by the Sri Lankan Army. Aid agencies have been given only limited access to the sprawling camps and have been barred from bringing in vehicles for fear that Tiger cadres could use them to escape.

[Full Coverage]

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  • fdimul said:

    The countries like India and China are being governed by worst leaders and the world is at the mercy of a few good people now. The majority now are states that sponsor terrorism on its people and live in luxury themselves.

  • arul said:

    shame on you IC……yet again you have let the Tamils down.

    You are pushing us again to fight and punish the Sri Lankan government.

    Criminals supporting criminals……god please help us.

  • Mo said:

    Does the UN have any humans ? Or are all tamils labelled terrorists in Srilanka to be killed & MAIMED for life (if they have any left)?