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Sunday, 16 February 2014





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International dialogue on HR politicised, double standards - Russian Human Rights Envoy

Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry Director of the Department for Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights, Anatoly Viktorov refuted the need for an international inquiry against Sri Lanka on war crimes saying international dialogue in the sphere of human rights was rife with politicisation and double standards.

Visiting Russian Human Rights Envoy Anatoly Viktorov meets Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa

“ No violation of the UN Charter or attempt to undermine norms and principles of the international law may be justified by any cause, whether it be political considerations, economic interest, human rights or anything else,” he stressed, holding a press conference in Colombo on Friday wrapping up a three-day visit to assess the situation here.

He said some countries threaten or imply sanctions against other countries which they consider to be violators of human rights but Russia rejected such an approach. “Those sanctions only increase suffering of people and contribute to aggravate their situation.”

Anatoly Viktorov
Pic by Sudath Nishantha

The Russian Human Rights Envoy said HR should not be used as a pretext for interference in internal affairs or for the use of force against countries. He said the UN human rights machinery experienced a number of problems, lack of trust being the most prominent of them.

Adding, ‘no country is free of human rights violations’, Viktorov said Russia therefore rejected the practise of teaching, naming and shaming of states which actually discredits the human rights cause.

He stressed his dialogue with Sri Lankan counterparts was a reflection of growing and strengthening bilateral relations between Russia and Sri Lanka, a country they consider as a time tested friend. Some of the questions posed by journalists at the media briefing and responses of the Russian envoy is as follows,

What will be Russia's stand if the US moved a third resolution against Sri Lanka as contemplated at the UN Human Rights Council Sessions in Geneva next month?

As diplomats we do not comment on hypothetical situations, my comments will be inappropriate if it does not happen. But our principle position is that there should not be country-specific resolutions in the Human Rights Council and General assembly. Sometime ago the human rights dimension of the UN has been undertaken and the HRC was established.

The main achievement of this Council is the establishment of the Universal Periodic Review procedure which should be strengthened because all UN member states have passed this procedure on a voluntary basis. Voluntary basis is important because it reflects the sovereignty of the states.

The Russian Federation strongly committed to promote the rule of law in the international relations not just in human rights issues. We believe UPR procedure is a good direction of cooperation among sovereign members within the HRC.

Russia has passed twice this UPR procedure. We received many recommendations (to improve the human rights situation in the country), we accepted a majority of them and we are in the process of implementing these recommendations. The same is with the other member states. It is not possible to impose international rulings in human rights. We strongly believe in this principle. Attempts to impose international inquiry of any kind will be counter productive because it will also question the objectivity of the Council.

Q: Are you satisfied with what has been done by Sri Lanka to achieve reconciliation ?

A: It is not a matter of satisfaction. Any impartial observer should admit that many things have been done in areas like housing, resettlement, a reconciliation commission has been set up and an action plan is being implemented.

In my professional life I have visited many countries affected by the conflict from Angola through Bosnia Herzegovina to Cambodia and many others. Believe me, on many occasions, it is extremely difficult to establish the guilt, that does not mean it is not necessary to try. The guilty person should be put on trial and punished. We expressed our solidarity with Sri Lanka during the anti terrorist operations. We are facing many problems related to terrorism in our country. We are facing international terrorism as well.

After such a conflict one should not expect that these complicated issues could be resolved over night. It is just not possible, this is my personal opinion. Our official position is that the international community must support the Government, the people and civil society in Sri Lanka. They should not impose their ideas as to what should be done to do better, or what must be done first and what is second.

Q: In the context of alleged human rights violations, do you think that some countries are trying to interfere in Sri Lanka's internal matters?

A: Judging by some past developments ‘yes'. We consider the attempts to submit decisions through various UN bodies, for example through the Human Rights Council, as an attempt to intervene in the internal affairs. I say that very explicitly.

The Boosa Detention Centre, for me and for the Russian Federation, this was confirmation that things were moving, slowly but in the right direction.

Q: If Russia's thinking that human rights should not be made a political tool, is shared by a majority of the members in the HR Council, how can the West's view often dominate the platform?

A: There are differences of opinion in the Human Rights Council. Unfortunately, many of them are promoting different approaches, which is their sovereign right but it must ensure that other states’ sovereign rights are not violated as a result. The level of confrontation and politicisation of the issues at the UNHRC is incredible. It is even higher than the UN Security Council which is a political body. For the Russian Federation this is additional proof, that the human rights agenda unfortunately is constantly being used by some countries as a devise or a tool for foreign policy issues. It has nothing to do with the real promotion of human rights. That is why we are saying to promote Human Rights it is better to cooperate with the relevant Governments.

We cannot exclude that sometimes and during extreme situations, country-specific resolutions could be needed. But in many cases like Iran, Sri Lanka and some others we do not agree with the approaches for country-specific resolutions.

Q: Some western countries accuse Sri Lanka of war crimes. Is Russia of the view that an external investigation is needed ?

A: War crimes should be investigated in any country, not just in Sri Lanka. But we are not sure that an international inquiry is necessary. The conflict was unpleasant, many lost their lives, many HR abuses were reported. But it is better to allow local institutions to investigate these issues.

Nothing would come out of international investigations.

It is difficult to compare conflicts and people's sufferings.

You cannot compare Rwanda and Sri Lanka.

The intensity, scale and scope of the crimes are different but still if crimes have been committed they should and must be investigated.

I have been told that inquiries against senior officers have already been conducted, court proceedings have been completed and five officers have been sentenced so far.

Q: Why is Russia is opposing the UN resolution against Syria continuously?

A: For the same reasons I mentioned. The draft resolution has been passed by the Council without consensus. They are not being objective. They (sponsors) are putting all the responsibility on the Government.

Of course a Government bears responsibility in affairs of a country but not in a country of conflict. Many territories (in Syria) are not under central government control.

You cannot say one party is committing all the sins and the others are angels with wings! This is not possible. War is war and there are criminals on both sides.

Secondly do you know the effort the UN Secretary General, the Russian Federation with the help of others are making, trying to put the political dialogue in Syria on the right track.

When we see some progress, some countries initiate resolutions blaming, naming and shaming the country, which is counter-productive.

Such resolutions are not contributing to save lives.

The country which moved a resolution on the HR situation in Syria to the third committee of the General Assembly, I don't want to name the country, but you will be surprised because the human rights situation in that country is far from being 'ideal' to put it mildly.

It is one of the neighbouring countries. It is all about political interest not promotion of human rights. We see it clear and that is why we are opposing it.

Viktorov visited the Boosa rehabilitation camp for ex-LTTE cadres and held meetings with Foreign Minister Prof.G.L.Peiris, Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem, National Human Rights Commission Chairman, Justice Priyantha Perera, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Attorney General, Chief of Defence Staff, UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella and TNA MP Mavei Senadhiraja during his stay.


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