TNA still studying House of Lords debate
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) could revisit resolution 30/1 titled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ top UN official said on Wednesday.
The US resolution, co-sponsored by Sri Lanka was adopted on Oct 1, 2015 without vote.
Farhan Aziz Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for UNSG António Guterres said that decisions regarding actions taken by the UNHRC were solely in the hands of the members of the Human Rights Council. Haq said it would be up to the member states of the Human Rights Council to decide whether to revisit Sri Lanka’s case.
The UNHRC comprises 47 countries divided into five zones.
The UN spokesperson said so when The Island asked him whether there was a possibility in UN revisiting Geneva Resolution in the wake of Lord Naseby assertion during a debate that the Vanni death toll maximum 7,000 to 8,000 not 40,000 as reported by UNSG Panel of Experts (PoE) in March 2011 and GoSL never targeted civilians purposely.
The Island raised the issue with the UN in the wake of Sri Lanka parliament taking up the issue twice since Naseby’s Oct 12 bombshell statement in the House of Lords.
Lord Naseby has based his claims on heavily censored UK military dispatches originating from Colombo that had been obtained from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in accordance with Freedom of Information Law.
Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.
Charge d’Affaires, Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives Paul Godfrey told The Island that the EU had no reason to question the PoE estimate in respect of the Vanni death toll.
The Geneva Resolution has recommended hybrid court inclusive of foreign judges and other experts.
The POE comprising Marzuki Darusman, Yasmin Sooka and Steven R. Ratner has placed the death toll at 40,000 on the basis of what the panel called a number of credible sources protected by UN confidentially clause till 2031.
Godfrey said: “Of course, we would support the establishment of a credible truth-seeking process, in line with the UNHRC resolution, to better document the fate of the thousands of people killed. Establishing truth about their fate has the potential to limit any distortion for political reasons and can be the basis for the much needed process of national reconciliation.”
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesperson Sarasi Wijeratne yesterday told The Island that the ICRC wouldn’t inquire into Lord Naseby’s claims. “We are a humanitarian organization not an investigative agency,” Wijeratne said.
The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government has refrained from taking up the Naseby revelations at the recently concluded UPR (Universal Periodic review) in respect of Sri Lanka in Geneva two weeks ago.
Top Norwegian negotiator Erik Solheim, who had been deeply involved in deliberations during the tenures of Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa, told The Island that it wouldn’t appropriate for him to respond to Naseby issue as long as he headed UN Environment.
The author of ‘To End a Civil War: Norway’s Peace Engagement in Sri Lanka’ as well as an international expert on Sri Lanka, Mark Salter, in response to The Island query said that at this stage he had no comment to make on Naseby allegations.
“It may become easier to do so if and when the evidence on which he bases his allegations becomes publicly available.”
Lord Naseby, in an exclusive interview with India headquartered WION global television network explained how the FCO tried to deprive him of confidential dispatches from Colombo based military attaché Lt. Col. Anton Gash. In another, WION sought Lord Naseby’s views on accusations that Sri Lanka Army, and the CID personnel had raped 50 Tamil men, now seeking political asylum in Europe, mostly the UK.
UK based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) spokesperson Suren Surendiran dismissed Lord Naseby’s statements. Surendiran said: “Lord Naseby is one of over 800 Lords in the House of Lords. He is not a representative of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee or the FCO. His views do not represent the FCO or the British Government’s policy on Sri Lanka. Britain was one of the main sponsors of the Geneva Resolutions and Britain still insists that the resolutions must be fully implemented.”
At the time, this edition went to press; The Island hadn’t received British High Commission response to a query pertaining to the Foreign Ministry and/or the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) taking up the issue with the BHC, Colombo.
A spokesperson for TNA leader R. Sampanthan told The Island that the party would comment on this matter once the Opposition Leader had studied Lord Naseby’s statement.
UK based Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow, who had repeatedly accused Sri Lanka of massacring 40,000 civilians during the Vanni offensive didn’t get in touch with The Island, though the Channel acknowledged receiving The Island request.
The National Peace Council (NPC) spokesperson Jehan Perera, who had accompanied the government delegation headed by then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera told The Island that the numbers mentioned by Lord Naseby had been cited much earlier by others. Declaring that Naseby hadn’t given anything new, Perera issued the following statement in response to The Island query: “Respected civil society organisations such as the Marga Institute have consulted with other civil society groups, done their own research and come up with conclusions. This issue has been the subject of exhaustive debate in the past and different opinions continue to exist. The National Peace Council would see the need for an impartial investigation into claims and counter claims about these figures. A truth seeking commission appointed by the government as promised in the co-sponsored UNHRC resolution of 2015, and with all-party support, would be an appropriate way forward”