UNHRC meet shows Sri Lanka-West gap
By P K Balachandran | ENS | Published: 03rd November 2012 10:34 AM |
The review of the rights situation in Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Thursday showed the existence of a wide gulf between Sri Lanka and its Western critics.
While the Western countries tried to pin Lanka down on specific instances of human rights abuse, the Lankan representative either skirted them or denied the allegations, and dwelt on the overall improvement in the situation, especially infrastructural development in the war-affected Northern and Eastern provinces.
The US reportedly asked about investigations into the assassination of five students in Trincomalee (January 2006); execution of 17 aid workers in Muthur (August 2006); assassination of editor Lasantha Wickrematunge (January 2009); and the disappearance of cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda (January 2010). The US wanted to know what measures were taken to protect witnesses.
Other concerns were the tracing of the missing and the abducted; reluctance to hold elections to the Northern provincial council; and moves to impeach the country’s Chief Justice.
Canada pointed out that not all Tamil war refugees had been able to go back to their villages. It wanted to know why the government was unwilling to bring about a Right to Information Act and devolve power to the provinces as per the constitution. UK wanted to know what progress had been made by the Lankan Army’s Court of Inquiry into instances of “war crimes.”
Colombo, on the other hand, skirted such specific issues and dwelt on the brighter overall scenario. It said that all refugees had been sent back to their homes. Of the 12,000 LTTE cadre who surrendered, only 782 were still undergoing rehabilitation and 262 were facing legal proceedings. Of the 7,940 who disappeared in 2010, 6653 had been traced. The corresponding figures for 2011 were 7,296 and 5,185.
As regards the Army Court of Inquiry into war crimes, Colombo said that the court had met 30 times since January and was probing 50 cases. Cases of sexual violence were investigated, but held that claims of army involvement were unfounded. A witness protection bill was under consideration by the cabinet, it added.
Lanka said that it had committed US$ 2.8 billion for reconstruction of North and East; built 124,184 houses; and cleared 98 pc of area earmarked for de-mining.