02/10/2022, 13.19
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UN Human Rights Council targets Sri Lanka

by Arundathie Abeysinghe

The Council’s next session could hold Sri Lanka responsible for war crimes and other abuses. Trade concessions by the European Union are at risk. If they were lost, country's economic situation would worsen further.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lanka is on the agenda of the 49th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

The HRC will meet from 22 February to 1 April 2022, providing the United States with a good opportunity to renew its commitment to the international protection of human rights.

Speaking to AsiaNews, several political analysts said that during the UNHRC sessions, the spotlight will fall on allegations of war crimes as well as other abuses in Sri Lanka.

On the second day of the session, the report by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, will be presented.

Mandated by resolution 40/1 (2019), the high commissioner was required to evaluate the progress with regard to the execution of the HRC recommendations on reconciliation, accountability and respect for human rights in general.

A draft of the report was recently released to the media. The paper was also shared with the Sri Lankan government which has the right to defend its position.

Analysts are of the view that taking into account the report as well as the latest developments in the island nation, the HRC will undoubtedly generate a new resolution on Sri Lanka.

In previous HRC sessions, Sri Lanka co-sponsored significant resolutions and said that it implemented a number of transitional justice mechanisms, accepting a range of such proposals as part of the Universal Periodic Review process.

Sri Lanka will point out that a restructured Prevention of Terrorism (PTA) bill in accordance with international standards is under discussion.

Yet, in 2019, Sri Lanka refused to support resolutions and the view that human rights situation in the country had worsened.

Any HRC resolution in 2022 is expected to be contested, but the UK-led Sri Lanka Score Group is reportedly trying to work out a consensus resolution.

Apart from the economic and political challenges, the possibility of continued censure at the 49th session of the UNHRC is a serious matter for Sri Lanka.

Countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the Netherlands are very critical of humanitarian issues in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka will certainly require Indian cooperation and is also putting pressure on governments with which he has strong ties, including China, Russia and Pakistan.

Of special concern is the possibility of being excluded from the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) of the European Union in case of censure by the HRC.

The GSP is a preferential tariff system that provided incentives for development and good governance practices. If trade concessions are denied, millions of Sri Lankans could lose their livelihood.

This will have adverse effects for the economy, worsening the country’s currency crisis and seriously affecting many sectors, especially the apparel industry.

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