Now, India lambasted at UN HR parley

Judiciary and HR commissions accused of complicity


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Having solicited India’s support for US-led resolution targeting Sri Lanka, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has launched a derisive attack on Premier Manmohan Singh’s government demanding far reaching constitutional changes to improve India’s own human rights record.

India is a key member of the 47-member UNHRC divided into five regional groups.

Diplomatic and political sources, based both in Colombo and Geneva, said that UN demand that India abolish the National Security Act, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and the Unlawful Activities Act etc highlighted the insensitivity of those in the UN system.

The unprecedented attack on India took place amidst the US-led move losing its steam with Pakistan and Egypt on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), respectively, backing Sri Lankan efforts to thwart the resolution. China, Russia, Venezuela, Thailand, Indonesia etc also backed Sri Lanka’s call for more time and space to implement recommendations by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

The US bid launched at the behest of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Tamil Diaspora is backed by the EU, UK and UN HR Chief South African Navi Pillai.

Responding to a query, sources recalled how a section of the international community brought pressure on the government to do away with the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and Emergency Regulations soon after the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009. Sri Lanka succumbed to Western pressure, though terrorism remained a threat in spite of the LTTE losing its conventional military capability.

Addressing the 19th sessions of the UNHRC on Monday (5), Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya accused India of failing to implement existing law instruments. The former Ugandan judicial officer alleged that some of the relevant Indian laws were out-dated and not in conformity with international human rights standards.

It was Sekaggya’s fourth presentation before the UNHRC. Geneva based sources said that the attack on India highlighted the increasing threat posed by those promoting Western agendas.

The assessment was based on a visit Sekaggya undertook from January 10 to 21 last year.

India also came under fire for targeting journalists. The UN official went to the extent of accusing the judiciary and human rights commissions, both at the central and state level of failing to do their duty. She asserted that the judiciary and human rights commissions needed to do much more to ensure a safe and conducive environment for defenders.

The UN also recommended that the ‘highest authorities of the state’ recognise the importance and legitimacy of the work and work accordingly.

Sekaggya said that Indian security forces, police and intelligence agencies should be made aware of and trained in the role and rights of human rights defenders. She stressed the need to train Indian forces on international human rights standards to ensure they comply with required standards.

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