War crimes allegations:

India calls on UNHRC to help
SL conduct domestic probe



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by Zacki Jabbar


India said yesterday that the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) should, instead of pursuing an international probe into allegations of war crimes against the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, encourage Colombo to conduct a comprehensive, independent and credible national investigation.


In an exclusive interview with The Island the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo, Y. K. Sinha said that his country which skipped last week’s US backed UNHRC resolution calling for an international inquiry into allegations of serious human rights violations in Sri Lanka, during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), believed that it was imperative for every country to have the means of addressing human rights violations through a robust national mechanism.


Pointing out that the primary responsibility of protecting human rights lay with national  institutions, he said that Sri Lanka should be provided with all assistance it required in a cooperative and collaborative manner.


The High Commissioner observed that the LLRC report, its findings and recommendations, provided a window of opportunity to forge a consensual way forward towards a lasting political settlement through genuine national reconciliation and the full enjoyment of human rights by all its citizens. In this regard New Delhi was committed to working with the Sri Lankan government, he said.


While calling for an early resumption of a dialogue between the government of Sri Lanka and the TNA, he emphasised that progress on meaningful devolution and a political settlement would help sort out accountability issues to the satisfaction of all sides in Sri Lanka.


Excerpts of the interview.


Q – India took everyone by surprise and abstained when the US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka was taken up for vote at the UNHRC last week. What brought about its decision?


YKS: The resolution was intrusive and undermines the national sovereignty of Sri Lanka. It ignores the progress already made by Sri Lanka in implementing previous resolutions. Moreover, the resolution is inconsistent and impractical in asking both the Government of Sri Lanka and the OHCHR to conduct investigations simultaneously.


Q- Is it India’s position that what happened was in the past and the allegations pertaining to the conduct of the war should be overlooked in the interest of reconciliation and rehabilitation?


YKS: We, believe that it is imperative for every country to have the means of addressing human rights violations through robust national mechanisms. The UNHRC’s efforts should therefore be directed towards encouraging and enabling Sri Lanka to investigate all allegations of human rights violations through comprehensive, independent and credible national investigative mechanisms. Sri Lanka should be provided all assistance it requires in a cooperative and collaborative manner. I must also add here that the primary responsibility for protecting human rights lies with national institutions.


Early progress on meaningful devolution and a political settlement within the framework of a unified Sri Lanka will prepare the ground for a more sustainable redressal of accountability issues to the mutual satisfaction of all sides in Sri Lanka. Early resumption of a dialogue between the government and the TNA is therefore a key imperative.


Q: With national elections to be held shortly, how would the Manmohan Singh government deal with the disappointment expressed by political parties in Tamil Nadu over New Delhi’s decision to abstain on the UNHRC vote against SL?


YKS: We believe that our decision to abstain on the UNHRC vote, would strengthen our hand in achieving our objectives in Sri Lanka. Our vote was meant to assist Sri Lanka in finding a lasting political settlement, acceptable to all communities in Sri Lanka including the Tamils. We will continue to remain engaged with the Government of Sri Lanka in realising the above objectives. I would not like to comment on Indian domestic politics.


As a close neighbour with thousands of years of cordial relations, with deep rooted ethnic, spiritual and civilisational ties, we cannot remain untouched by developments in Sri Lanka. Since the end of the armed conflict, India has remained engaged in a substantial way in the relief, resettlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction process in Sri Lanka. Our assistance has greatly contributed to the Government of Sri Lanka’s efforts in resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons, de-mining, education, connectivity, livelihood restoration, economic revival, etc. We will continue to extend all possible assistance in this regard.


At the same time, India has repeatedly called for moving towards an early political settlement and national reconciliation through meaningful devolution of powers so as to ensure that all citizens of Sri Lanka including the Sri Lankan Tamil community, can lead a life marked by equality, justice, dignity and self-respect as citizens of united Sri Lanka. In this context, India continues to underscore that the report of the LLRC and its findings and recommendations, provide a window of opportunity to forge a consensual way forward towards a lasting political settlement through genuine national reconciliation and the full enjoyment of human rights by all its citizens. The Government of India is committed to working with the Government of Sri Lanka in this process.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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