The Human Rights Council Can’t Handle Sri Lanka

The Human Rights Council Can’t Handle Sri Lanka

Taylor Dibbert, Contributor05/05/2017

During the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council (which ended in late March), a cosponsored resolution on Sri Lanka was passed. The resolution – which deals largely with human rights and transitional justice – is the fifth country-specific Sri Lanka resolution since 2012.

Leading up to, during and after the session a range of commentary has been published on this topic and one thing really stands out. Many have referred to Sri Lanka being “granted”more time to move ahead with its transitional justice process. We have been told that Colombo has been “given” more time or been “allowed” to proceed.
It’s true that the Council will monitor Sri Lanka’s transitional justice process for another two years. However, something truly odd is going on here. Why are people intimating that there was some other (more drastic) option looming during the Council’s 34th session?
The passage of another resolution on Sri Lanka was basically staged theater, a foregone conclusion before the session had begun. More resolute action simply wasn’t on the table.
In a recent Washington Examiner piece, I looked at Sri Lanka’s relationship with the Council in more detail. Here’s a paragraph from the article:

Sri Lanka is making a mockery of the Council. If international actors actually want to keep the pressure on the island nation, they should consider moving beyond nonbinding human-rights resolutions – perhaps by reexamining engagement (diplomatic, military, even economic) at the bilateral level – an admittedly unlikely scenario at present.

Sri Lanka has basically been disregarding Council resolutions for the past five years. The current administration is more than happy to keep this dance at the Geneva-based body going, because it’s ensures that they can – at least for an international audience – remain publicly committed to a lot of reforms that they have virtually no intention of ever implementing.
The inescapable reality is that the international community, particularly the U.S. and its allies, have completely caved. Colombo’s promises have not been met with significant tangible action and the smart money says things won’t look that different in the coming years.
The current state of affairs in Sri Lanka is being manipulated for various reasons: including the desire for a success story, perceived geopolitical exigencies and fundamental misunderstandings about the country.
So, let’s be clear and candid about what’s happening.
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