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Sri Lanka Cleared of Rights Violations by UN


Sri Lanka has received a clean bill of health from the UN Human Rights Council, which adopted a resolution praising the government for its humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Tamils. The resolution was approved by 29 nations, 12 voted against and six abstained.

China, Cuba, Egypt and Pakistan were some of the 29 countries that voted in favor of the resolution. All of the EU members of the Council, plus Switzerland, Bosnia Herzegovina, Canada, Chile and Mexico voted against.

The two-day special session was convened so the UN Human Rights Council could explore the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. The UN's top human rights official and numerous rights and aid organizations have accused both the Sri Lankan government and now vanquished Tamil Tiger rebels of possible war crimes.

Their calls for an international, independent investigation into these allegations went unheeded. In fact, the resolution praises Sri Lanka for its victory over the Tamil Tigers and it condemns the rebels for using civilians as human shields.

The resolution also commends measures taken by Colombo to address the urgent needs of the Internally Displaced Persons.

Aid agencies complain they are not being granted access to the 300,000 Tamils in Internment camps. But, the resolution supports the government's decision to provide access as may be appropriate to international humanitarian agencies.

The Sri Lankan Representative, Rajiva Wijesinho, thanked his friends who understood and helped his country. He had fewer kind words for some of the aid agencies.

"We would welcome the assistance of the UN, but we need to monitor and make sure that there is not a cascading effect of people who are making money from us," said Rajiva Wijesinho. "We want NGO's who bring aid and many have done a wonderful job. But, we also do not want people sitting around begging for the crumbs from the rich man's table. That should go to our poor citizens. Not the NGO's, who have done sub-contracting and sub-contracting beyond belief."

Canada's representative, Terry Cormier, did not disguise his country's disappointment at the outcome of the session.

He said Canada and a cross-regional group of countries, which requested the special session, engaged in all possible effort to reach consensus on addressing the serious human rights and humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka.

"We regret that our reasonable proposals were refused and that the credibility of the Council has been further undermined by the result," said Terry Cormier. "Even more disappointing, the Council missed the opportunity to send a united message of concern about the situation and support for the victims of the conflict."

Cormier urged the Sri Lankan government to provide full, unimpeded access of humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced camps. He said the government should allow more UN human rights monitors on its territory to safeguard the rights of ethnic minorities.

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