Decoding the UNHRC resolution
The UNHRC report titled ‘Comprehensive report of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights of Sri Lanka.’ It was furnished under
Agenda item 2 at the 30th Session of the Council on September 28. The
Report retains data, discovered by the comprehensive investigation,
carried out by the OHCHR, into alleged violations and abuses of human
rights and associated perpetrations of crime, during the conflict epoch
of Sri Lanka.
The 30th session of the UNHRC concluded in September -newsfirst
The OHCHR proclaims that it takes into its positive consideration,
the democratic reforms, aimed at the development of human rights affairs
in Sri Lanka, since March 2014 and also the steps, taken by the present
Government of Good Governance, under President Maithripala Sirisena, in
respect of the predication of accountability and ethnic reconciliation.
Report contents include an introduction, engagement of the Office of
the High Commissioner and the special procedures, human rights and
related developments, principle findings of the investigation (including
unlawful killings, violations relating to the deprivation of liberty,
enforced disappearances, torture and other forms of cruel , inhuman or
degrading treatment), steps towards accountability and conclusions and
In an objective exegetical approach to an international instrument of
the present calibre, particularly, when it is closely linked with a
third world island Sri Lanka, perched at the southern-most edge-tip of
India, the concept of perfection becomes a phenomenon of relativity,
devoid of absoluteness.
Therefore, its comprehension, having one’s recourse to it, the
domestic application of its recommended contents and finally its
criticizing too, have to be done with caution and the intensity of
circumspection. Thus, the perceptions of perfection in regard to the
resolution must be not only general, but also particular.
The present text does not intend to generate a general exegesis on
all the contents of the UNHRC report.
It only pleases to touch those, which would show us the so-called
investigated facts that weaken Sri Lanka’s position, so that the
competent authorities may galvanize in to action, in order to
strengthen, enhance and solidify the position of Sri Lanka, to
courageously encounter the global challenge via a winning diplomacy.
Besides, the present analysis intends to interpret HRC sophisticated
resolution texts, in simple English, for the general public to know the
truth and to dispel the disillusions and deceptions.
The report commends a couple of attempts of commitments of the new
government to empirically pursue the principle of accountability,
notwithstanding the pragmatic presence of several opposing political
parties, sections of the military and general public.
It also emphasizes the strong wish of the Sri Lanka Government to
deal with the accountability issues, within the orbit of the legal
framework of Sri Lanka. Simultaneously, it also did not forget some
powerful contents, carried in the HRC resolution 25/1. To be more
precise, the comprehensive approach to the problem, execution of
transnational justice, incorporation of the full range of judicial and
non-judicial measures, including individual prosecutions, reparations,
truth-seeking, institutional reforms and vetting of public employees and
The report seems to doubt the commitments, the GOSL made, while such
commitments are commended by its Preambular Paragraphs (Pp) 74 and 75.
*It illustrates that whether the proposed mechanism must be domestic,
international or hybrid of the two is a debatable question.
*Besides, it demonstrates its sincere concern about the credibility
of Sri Lanka’s criminal justice system, fettered in its non-readiness
and non-equipment to conduct an independent, impartial and credible
investigation in to the allegations, reported by the UNHRC investigative
team or to hold accountable those responsible for such violations, as
required by the HRC in resolution 25/1.
*The Pp:76 of the report informs that judicial system of Sri Lanka
lacks a dependable mechanism to protect victims and witnesses and of a
context, wherein, risk of reprisals are very high, though, the Victim
and Witness Protection Act was incorporated in to indigenous law, since,
no concrete action have been taken to render the incorporated act
*The report also, perturbs the UNHRC respecting the integrity of the
individuals, to be appointed, to legally manage the affairs of the
witness protection authority and about the needed financial and infra
structural resources, to be allocated, for the authentic functioning of
the newly framed institution.
Void in international law
The void of international law is directly and confidently guided to
the nexus with the Sri Lanka’s domestic legal framework. The void is
marked as a serious remark, partially disqualifying the indigenous
judicial structure, in dealing with international crimes of the
magnitude, as reported by the HRC investigative team. That is what the
Pp: 77 of the UNHRC report notes.
In order to validate its statement, the report states the following:
*Sri Lanka has not acceded to several key instruments
*Notably the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions, in
particular Additional Protocol II,
*The International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from
Enforced Disappearance and
*The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
*It does not have laws criminalizing enforced disappearances, war
crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.
The UNHRC report drags the concept of system crimes in to body of its
discussion. The seeming judicial inefficiency, the report worries about
is closely linked to the international law void. In Sri Lanka, the
report stipulates, the conflict-related cases are determined by the
regular criminal laws of the island. These local laws are not competent
enough to address the globalized criminal issues of extreme gravity,
regulated by norms and principles of international law.
*The Pp:78 of the report elaborates that it also constrains and
undermines prosecution strategies, as it does not follow the chain of
responsibility and does not prosecute those who planned, organized or
gave the orders for what may be system crimes.
*The Pp: 79 states that effective prosecution strategies for
large-scale crimes, such as those described by the investigation team,
focus on their systemic nature and their planners and organizers.
The UNHRC report strongly stresses the failure of the GOSL- appointed
commissions with no lasting final results.
It encourages the principle of truth-seeking and the accountability
to be augmented with a genuine, informed and participatory consultation
to the inclusion of victims and their families. Thus, Pp: 81 of the
report recommend the introduction of purpose-specific legislation to
fructify the set of anticipated goals.
The presence of the decades of emergency law, the continuity of an
ethnic conflict and the impunity of the perpetrators of various crimes
are characterized as the foundation for the distortion of the security
sector and the system of the administration of justice in the island.
Pp: 82 of the report points to the political interference, by the
Executive of the country with the judiciary and its becoming a routine
It urges a firm process of establishing the integrity and
independence of the Attorney General’s Department and the Human Rights
Commission, two key institutions, for them not to be compromised:
The UNHRC report proposes immediate implementation of significant
reforms in the security sector and the justice system to address the
Impunity of security forces, police and intelligence
The Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Public Security Ordinance Act
Military presence in the war-affected areas
Occupation of extensive lands by the military in war-affected
territories Maintaining a culture of surveillance and harassment of the
What is proposed are institutional and legal reforms with a guarantee
of non-occurrence in future.
The report expresses its total disappointment with various
governments, which promised to bring the perpetrators in to book, yet,
turned up with their impunity, introducing the white van culture on the
top of all that. Thus, Pp: 85 of the HRC report alludes to following
*Reform in the security sector
*Reform in the system of justice
*A vetting process of security officers
*A vetting process of public officials
*Removal of perpetrators from the office after vetting
*Implementation of the above before accountability process and