ATC Statement on UNHRC, SL withdrawal and OHRHC report

The Sri Lankan government has announced its intention to withdraw from UN Human Rights Council (HRC) resolutions 30/1 and 40/1 which it cosponsored 5 years ago. With the UNHRC session due to begin this week the Australian Tamil Congress (ATC) would like to highlight a few key factors for consideration by the Australian government and other member states of the UNHRC.

The Tamil community has strongly felt the UNHRC resolutions over the past decade, including those cosponsored by Sri Lanka, have not been taken seriously by Sri Lankan governments as they continued to avoid implementing agreed upon commitments and sought extensions repeatedly. In light of their recent decision to withdraw from the resolution altogether, which further proves warnings by the Tamil community that the cosponsoring was in itself not genuine and a delaying tactic, we are extremely concerned that the process of accountability and justice cannot be achieved through the UNHRC alone and alternative mechanisms such as through an international criminal tribunal must be pursued.

The report last week by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned of “various signs indicating a possible reversal of past commitments by the Government which would setback the promotion of reconciliation, accountability and human rights, reduce civic space and erode important institutional safeguards in Sri Lanka”.

This of course concerns the Australian Tamil community deeply as over the decades it has been the Tamil community that has been most affected by persecution, human rights abuses and acts of mass atrocity crimes. 

A decline in human rights will also mean more Tamils risking their lives to seek asylum elsewhere, including attempting perilous boat journeys to Australia.

We ask that Australia take all these concerns into consideration and take a strong stance at the UNHRC session to ensure that successful mechanisms which can actually obtain justice for the victims and survivors of mass atrocity crimes are established. Accountability for the gross violations of international humanitarian law should not be given an opportunity to be further delayed.