A day after the Congress called for an inquiry into alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka during the war with the LTTE, the UPA government did the opposite: India abstained on the Sri Lanka resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.
An international probe into the alleged abuses was an “intrusive approach” that undermined Sri Lanka’s “national sovereignty”, India said.
New Delhi’s abstention did not come in the way of the UNHRC’s adoption of the US-sponsored resolution, which was passed by 23 votes to 12, with 12 abstentions. The resolution asked the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to investigate alleged abuses “during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” (between 2002 and 2009).
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The Congress manifesto, released on Wednesday by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, said, “We will work with other countries to prevail upon Sri Lanka to ensure a credible, objective, time-bound inquiry into allegations of human rights violations and excesses committed by the Sri Lankan forces during the concluding phases of the operations against the LTTE.”
Asked about India’s vote, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said, “Yes, we have voted differently as this resolution is very different from previous resolutions on Sri Lanka. Unlike the resolutions in 2009, 2012 and 2013, this resolution imposes an international investigative mechanism. This is an intrusive approach that undermines national sovereignty.”
The spokesperson said that as a close neighbour, India could not remain untouched by the developments in Sri Lanka. “While significant steps have been taken, much more needs to be done by the Government of Sri Lanka.”
He said that international efforts should aim to enable Sri Lanka to investigate the allegations of rights violations through a comprehensive, independent and credible national mechanism.
“An external investigative mechanism with an open-ended mandate to monitor national processes is not a constructive approach. In our view adopting an intrusive approach that undermines national sovereignty and institutions is counterproductive,” Akbaruddin said.
Sources in South Block said the resolution includes a series of prescriptive elements, which call for a national reparation policy, lay down guidelines on how truth-seeking processes should be designed, and who should be involved. It also stresses the responsibility of states to “prosecute those responsible for gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law, constituting crimes against international law”.