Australian Tamil Congress cautiously welcomes the draft resolution tabled at the UNHRC

The Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) cautiously welcomes the draft resolution on Sri Lanka tabled at the UN Human Rights Council on 24th September, which Sri Lanka is co-sponsoring.

The text is a product of difficult consensus building including that of the Government of Sri Lanka, and reflects the sometimes competing interests of a wide range of stakeholders. ATC has consistently called for an international accountability mechanism to address the violations and abuses committed by both sides of the conflict, and though the tabled resolution falls short and is a source of concern for many in the Tamil community, we believe it provides a realistic starting point, and if faithfully implemented, can lead to a credible accountability process with substantial international involvement.

The law reform to allow for war crimes to be investigated and trialed, incorporation of Commonwealth and foreign judges in the judicial process, political settlement through effective devolution mechanism, and periodic reporting on the progress of the implementation by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, are a few key provisions that will be under the microscope as this resolution takes hold.

While welcoming the new Sri Lankan government’s commitments, we note that implementing the resolution and the recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will be the real test of progress, and not merely words. Victims of Sri Lanka’s brutality have heard far too many words, and now deserve credible actions. The draft resolution gives the Government of Sri Lanka the opportunity to achieve that goal. 

ATC has engaged with a wide range of stakeholders on many issues of concern to the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, which includes the Australian government, the opposition parties, NGOs, academics, legal professionls and the media, and we believe our continuous efforts have contributed to the outcomes at the UNHRC. In this regard, we are grateful to the governments of the US and the UK, all co-sponsors of the resolution, and all others who helped drive the progress on accountability. We sincerely hope that this week’s result will be a step in the right direction.

We are particularly pleased that Australia has decided to co-sponsor the UNHRC resolution, and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s statement is clear testament to her willingness to constructively contribute to reconciliation in Sri Lanka. We also would like to acknowledge the statement from  Shadow Ministers Tania Plibersek and Michelle Rowland welcoming the OHCHR report and the resolution. The draft resolution stresses the importance of the participation of Commonwealth and other foreign judges in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, and we believe this is an area where Australia, as a commonwealth country, can make a significant contribution.

Victims of heinous crimes committed during the civil conflict have waited for over six years for this process to reveal the truth and justice to be served. They sincerely hope that all stakeholders of this process including the international community will not let them down. ATC on its part will do all it could to ensure that this process will lead to true accountability and closure to all victims.