Sri Lanka faces international scrutiny over alleged human rights violations
Colombo, Mar 23 (efe-epa).- The government of Sri Lanka on Tuesday came under international scrutiny over alleged human rights violations and marginalization of minorities after the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution in this regard with 47-22 votes in favor.
The resolution, titled “Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka,” was passed in Geneva on Tuesday and urged Colombo to ensure that its citizens enjoyed human rights irrespective of “religion, belief or ethnic origin.”
The document also tasked UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to gather evidence over the crimes committed during the bloody civil war between the Sri Lankan military and rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which ended in 2009.
Nonprofit Amnesty International hailed the resolution as an “important stop forward” that brings “renewed hope of long-awaited justice” for the victims of the three-decade long war.
“We urge Sri Lanka to engage constructively with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to implement the recommendations of the report and to allow full and unfettered access to the country,” said Hilary Power, AI’s representative to the UN in Geneva.
The Sri Lankan government, which has repeatedly rejected the accusations, had expected to receive support from various allies in blocking the resolution.
“We will try to defeat the false accusations leveled against us. Many friendly countries have joined hands with us in this,” Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena had said on Monday.
On Tuesday, Gunawardena thanked the countries that opposed or abstained from the vote, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Cuba, China and Russia.
Weeks before the UNHRC session, Colombo had announced the decision to finally allow the burials of Covid victims, ending long-standing protests by rights activists and minority groups such as Muslims, who had been opposing the forced cremation of people killed by the disease, enforced a year ago.
Former minister and Muslim leader Ali Zahir Moulana told EFE that the government lifted the “draconian” rule only after concerns were raised by the council members.
“If they are really going to respect the minority rights it should be done consistently and not just to get the support of member countries of the UNHRC,” he said.
The attitude of the government of Sri Lanka, a Buddhist majority nation, towards its minorities has also been questioned over some cabinet members recently announcing plans to ban the burka, or Islamic veil, as a national security measure.
Later, Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage clarified in a statement that the proposal had been discussed after the 2019 Easter bombings, attributed to a local Islamist group linked to the Islamic State.
Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekara, one of the proponents of the burka ban, told EFE that the “accusations of human rights violations are made up stories.”
“Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils are living as brothers and sisters (in Sri Lanka),” he insisted.
A professor at the Jaffna University, Mahendran Thiruvarangan, told EFE that the country was facing two major issues: lack of accountability over the abuses committed against the Tamil community during the civil war and the ongoing human rights violations.
He said the government had only itself to blame for the “internationalization” of the issues and should have fulfilled the “very reasonable” demands. EFE-EPA