US introduces UN resolution on Sri Lankan rights abuses | Connect Asia

US introduces UN resolution on Sri Lankan rights abuses

US introduces UN resolution on Sri Lankan rights abuses

Updated 30 January 2013, 15:37 AEDT

The United States has announced it will introduce a fresh resolution to the UN Human Rights Council, in a bid to force Sri Lanka to keep its promise to investigate the military for alleged war crimes and atrocities.

The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, James Moore, says Washington will sponsor a procedural resolution at the March sessions of the Rights Council.

The Sri Lankan military has been accused of killing up to 40,000 civilians in the final months of the war against separatist Tamil rebels but Colombo has denied any civilians were killed by its troops.

The US government says while there has been some progress to investigate rights abuses, the fresh resolution was also prompted by the recent sacking of Sri Lanka's Chief Justice, Shirani Bandaranayake.

Presenter: Liam Cochrane

Speaker: Gordon Weiss, correspondent for The Global Mail, former UN spokesman in Sri Lanka during the end of the civil war

WEISS: It's the latest in an incremental approach to try and encourage Sri Lanka to account for what happened in the final days of the war. There have been a number of different reports produced by the United Nations. These even been an internal Sri Lankan report. The last resolution which occurred in March, last year, came as a surprise to the Sri Lankans and achieved unexpected support from both the United States and much more unexpectedly from India. The Sri Lankans have been given a year to come up with substantive progress and the US having announced now that it intends to raise another critical resolution is an unmistakable sign that the Sri Lankans have not made adequate progress.

COCHRANE: So will there be specific things that this resolution will be looking for in terms of that progress?

WEISS: Yes, it will be, it will be asking Sri Lanka to abide by the agreement that it made with the Secretary-General on the 22nd of May, 2009, at the conclusion of the war, that it would account for what happened in the final months of the war and that one would see serious political progress in terms of reconciliation between the Tamils and majority Sinhalese community. Neither of those things have happened and in the interim, indeed oppression has increased in Sri Lanka, there was a crackdown on the media, the sacking of the Chief Justice is just the latest instance of a growing loss of civil liberties in Sri Lanka and more over, there has been increasing evidence that there were illegal executions and a widespread killing of civilians in the final months of the war. So Sri Lanka has, has broken both of those principle components of the agreement it's just signed with the United Nations.

COCHRANE: The biggest part of this, I guess, that we've been discussing and looking at for years now is the civil war component of it. The element that relates to wider human rights issues and in particular, the sacking of the Chief Justice. Is there a concern that that might water down any resolution or confuse the issues?

WEISS: No, I think they go hand-in-hand. I mean remember that Sri Lanka has long advanced this civil war as its primary reason for lagging on a whole lot of civil right issues. Now the war's been over for three years and and what's happened is that you have a loss of civil liberties in Sri Lanka. So I think that people generally see accountability for what happened in the final months of the war as linked to political progress in Sri Lanka.

COCHRANE: Now, reports on this have also mentioned tension between Sri Lanka and the US over the training of a Sri Lankan Army General, which apparently the US refused to conduct that training. Can you share anymore details on this particular tension?

WEISS: Well, there is, of course, a divided house in the US. The US military in general have been in favour of continuing military links with Sri Lanka. But increasingly as evidence of war crimes has emerged from Sri Lanka, the Justice and State Departrments in the US have taken umbrage at cooperation, military cooperation with Sri Lanka and the refusal of the US to train a number of officers who have been linked with credible reports of human rights abuses and war crimes is, is a sign of the US changing institutionally and the administration changing its stance on Sri Lanka, towards Sri Lanka.

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