War crimes probe: Canada won’t reveal its stand till text of new resolution is ready

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Canada has reiterated that Sri Lanka should cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in fulfilling its human rights obligations.

Having acknowledged the decision to request a one-time extension of the OHCHR probe into human rights violations in Sri Lanka at the 28th session of the Geneva-based UNHRC, a Canadian government spokesperson yesterday told The Island that Canada would examine OHCHR report carefully.

The UNHRC comprises 47 countries divided into five groupings. However, Canada is not a voting member of the UNHRC.

The report prepared by a 12-member team headed by Ms. Sandra Beidas, formerly with a UN mission in South Sudan dealt with accountability issues in accordance with March, 2014 US-led resolution meant to conduct an external investigation. The Geneva-based inquiry dealt with the period from Feb 21, 2002 until 15 November 2011

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird'sThe Ottawa-based Canadian spokesperson was responding to a query whether the US consulted Canada regarding its decision to move a resolution at the next Geneva session supporting a domestic inquiry in Sri Lanka into accountability issues. The Island also sought clarification whether Canada would throw its weight behind the proposed resolution as well as its stand on the Beidas report sanctioned by three international experts.

The spokesperson said: “Canada takes decisions on resolutions at the UNHRC upon review of the texts during the Council session. We also welcome Sri Lanka’s efforts to foster a transparent, responsive and pluralistic government, and encourage it to fulfill its commitment to cooperate with the OHCHR in fulfilling its human rights obligations and ensuring accountability and reconciliation.”

Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland, Ms. Silvia Cartwright, former High Court judge of New Zealand, and Ms. Asma Jahangir, former President of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan backed up the Beidas team. The three member team played a supportive and advisory role, as well as conducting independent verifications throughout the investigation, it is said.

Asked whether the US consulted those who had voted for US led resolution directed against Sri Lanka before it announced a change in its position, a US embassy official politely declined to respond. However, he quoted Tom Malinowski Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour as having said at the American Center on Aug 26 that : “The important thing is there is an opportunity now that did not exist in the past to work on this collaboratively.  It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy.  There are difficult issues.  There are many important constituencies within Sri Lanka and around the world that would care about the outcome of this process. The United States and the international community are not going to walk away from this in September, whatever the thrust of the resolution.  International support, international involvement will continue because that is also an important way to continue building confidence and trust, and that in turn will be good for the government because it will enable the government to have the space and the time it needs to confront these very difficult issues in a way that builds the broadest possible support within Sri Lankan society.”