United Nations adopts anti-Lanka resolve, India abstains

Published Mar 28, 2014, 8:50 am IST
Updated Apr 8, 2019, 8:35 am IST
23 votes in favour, 12 against and 12 were abstaining during the resolution

New Delhi: In a significant departure, India for the first time abstained from voting on a US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The resolution, calling for an international criminal investigation into alleged war crimes during the decades-long civil war against the LTTE, was adopted, with 23 votes in favour, 12 against and 12 abstaining. Russia, China and Pakistan were among the nations that opposed the resolution.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay is tasked with the responsibility of investigating events between 2002 and 2009, when Sri Lanka militarily defeated the LTTE. Sri Lanka severely criticised the move, calling it a “serious breach of international law”.


Earlier, in 2009, 2012 and 2013, India voted in favour of such resolutions.

Justifying the abstention, MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said: “Unlike 2009, 2012 and 2013, this imposes an international investigative mechanism. This is an intrusive approach that undermines sovereignty.”

Justifying India’s abstention, MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said: “International efforts should aim to enable Sri Lanka to investigate allegations of human rights violations through a comprehensive, independent and credible national mechanism and bring to justice those found guilty.”


He added: “An external investigative mechanism with an open-ended mandate to monitor national processes is not a constructive approach. In our view, adopting an intrusive approach that undermines national sovereignty and institutions is counterproductive. Hence we have in this instance abstained on the resolution.”

India’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva Dilip Sinha spoke in the same vein. “India has always been of the view that the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka provided a unique opportunity to pursue a lasting political settlement, acceptable to all communities in Sri Lanka, including the Tamils,” he said.


An explanatory note on the Indian position stated: “India believes that this council’s efforts should contribute to a state’s own efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights. We are strongly supportive of Sri Lanka’s continued engagement with the OHCHR.”

Pointing to the progress made in Sri Lanka in the last one year, the note said: “We encourage the High Commissioner to continue to provide technical assistance in accordance with the relevant HRC resolutions. We are also supportive of close engagement of UN Special Procedures with the Government of Sri Lanka.”


The statement also praised the island nation for having kept its commitments to the international community like conducting elections to the Northern Provincial Council, taking steps to implement important recommendations of Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), such as Trilingual Policy and promoting the official use of the Tamil language and the upgrading of schools in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

However, the Indian statement also called on Sri Lanka to do more on devolving political power to the Tamil province, and implement recommendations of the LLRC especially with regard to missing persons, detainees and withdrawal of military from civilian areas.


It said: “We call for effective and timely implementation of all the constructive recommendations contained in the LLRC Report including those pertaining to missing persons, detainees, reduction of ‘high-security zones’, return of private lands by the military and withdrawal of security forces from the civilian domain in the Northern Province.”

It added: “We call on the Government of Sri Lanka to make purposeful efforts to fulfil its commitments, including on the devolution of political authority through the full implementation of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution of Sri Lanka and build upon it.”


Reacting to India’s decision, the CPI lashed out at the Congress. CPI national secretary D. Raja said: “It is another betrayal by the Congress-led UPA government, which supported a resolution two years even though it was watered down.”

He added: “Now with the report of Navi Pillay, UN Human Rights Commissioner, who has demanded investigation into human rights violations and war crimes in Sri Lanka, there was a need for a credible probe.”

Attacking the UPA government for not taking the lead in sponsoring the resolution, Mr Raja said that the Congress needs to be defeated at the hustings for its “totally shameful” foreign policy.