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The Philippines looks askance at evidence gathering mechanism

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Himalee Arunatilaka

UNHRC report on Sri Lanka

The Philippines has questioned the allocation of as much as USD 10 mn for Geneva-based evidence gathering mechanism to inquire into accountability issues in Sri Lanka.

During the ongoing 54th Session of the Human Rights Council that commenced on 11th September, 2023, the Philippines government raised the issue.

Making a strong statement on the accountability mechanism run by the OHCHR (Office if the High Commissioner for Human Rights), the Philippines called it ‘an expensive mandate worth 10 million US dollars with an open-ended work time-frame’, that ‘runs parallel to and is divorced from functioning domestic processes.

Cuba pointed out that punitive mechanisms only gave rise to politicisation and proliferation of double standards and did not contribute in any way to the promotion and protection of human rights. Pakistan expressed concerns over the imposition of external accountability measures inconsistent with the provisions of the UN charter and UNGA Resolution 60/251.

China extended support to Sri Lanka on safeguarding national sovereignty, independence, social stability and promoting economic development and stated that Resolution 51/1 does not follow the principles of fairness and objectivity and non-selectivity and it did not have the approval of the country concerned.

Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to HRC in Geneva Ambassador Himalee Arunatilaka has reiterated Sri Lanka’s rejection of Resolution 46/1 and 51/1 that led to the setting up of the so-called ‘Accountability Project’. Ambassador Arunatilaka also rejected the latest written update, its conclusions and recommendations.

The latest written update, titled ‘Situation of Human Rights in Sri Lanka,’ was presented by Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada al-Nashif.

Pointing out that Resolutions 46/1 and 51/1 had been adopted by a divided vote in the Council where the majority of the Member States either opposed or abstained from voting, due to fundamental disagreement with its unacceptable content, in particular the setting up of evidence gathering mechanism, Ambassador Arunatilaka said pointing out that the move was unprecedented.

Career diplomat Arunatilaka succeeded C.A. Chandraprema in the wake of the change of government in July last year.

While raising concerns regarding the content of the written update which does not reflect the actual ground situation in Sri Lanka, the PR stated that the economic, social and financial stabilization achieved in the past year has been appreciated and acknowledged, domestically and externally, by those who have expertise.

The Sri Lankan envoy regretted that the OHCHR has also chosen to ignore the democratic resilience of the country in the past year and strongly objected to the written update that dealt with policy matters that were essentially domestic for any sovereign country and outside the framework of the Council. She declared OHCHR’s approach unhelpful.

The Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government also rejected all conclusions and recommendations including references to targeted sanctions based on incorrect and unsubstantiated sources contravening the principles of natural justice and the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity.

Ambassador Arunatilaka reaffirmed that Sri Lanka will continue to engage constructively with other mechanisms of the Council, in keeping with our close engagement with the international community and the Council in other areas of its work.


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