House of Lords-Feb 5, 2019: Debate on Sri Lanka’s UNHRC Resolution …..https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2019-02-05/debates/2E1B15B0-E8D5-42AF-B53C-240E0473212C/SriLanka
Lord Naseby = To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the resignation of the government of the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council where they co-sponsored with the United Kingdom Resolution 30/1 in 2015 and Resolution 34/1 in 2017, in regard to Sri Lanka, and given the progress made towards many aspects highlighted in the resolutions, what assessment they have made of whether to annul or withdraw those resolutions.
Lord Naseby (Con): My Lords, it is my privilege to introduce this debate this evening. In doing so, I declare an interest in that I started the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka in 1975 and had the privilege of being made its honorary president four years ago.
In a sense, this evening is almost an auspicious day in Sri Lankan terms. Yesterday was the 71st anniversary of the independence of Sri Lanka, so it is no young nation—indeed, it is a very senior nation—and, in democratic terms, it is looked upon as the leading democracy in that part of the world, with regular elections, Governments changing here and there, and so far, thankfully, no sign of any dictator.
The reason for this evening’s debate is very straightforward. I thought about this six months ago and realised that the UN Motions on Sri Lanka will be reviewed in March 2019—that is, next month—by the UNHCR in Geneva, and I decided to initiate a debate. It is, after all, nearly four years since the resolutions were passed, having originally been moved by the US and the UK. They were co-sponsored by the Government of Sri Lanka, who welcomed help along the way.
There are two resolutions: one was adopted in September 2015 and the other in March 2017. The key point about them is that they promoted reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. The cause was really the war in Sri Lanka, and the end of that war has resulted in Eelam being something that nobody in Sri Lanka, other than the Tamil Tigers, really wants. Certainly it is not wanted today and it is not wanted by India. However, unfortunately the UN received the Darusman report, which indicated that 40,000 civilians had been killed.
I have done a great deal of research. Nearly three years ago I made a request under the Freedom of Information Act and secured the publication of Colonel Gash’s dispatches to the United Kingdom. I have 40 pages of them here, some of which have been totally redacted, and I shall quote from one this evening. It is the dispatch of 16 February 2009 and concerns 400 IDPs being transferred from the fighting area to Trincomalee. Colonel Gash writes: “The operation was efficient and effective, but most importantly was carried out with compassion, respect and concern. I am entirely certain that this was genuine—my presence was not planned and was based on a sudden opportunity”.
There are many more references in the dispatches to the fact that it was never a policy of the Sri Lankan Government to kill civilians.I have one other reference that I think is useful. It comes from the University Teachers for Human Rights, which is essentially a Tamil organisation. It says: “From what has happened we cannot say that the purpose of bombing or shelling by the government forces was to kill civilians … ground troops took care not to harm civilians”.
There is a host of other references but I shall quote one more: “Soldiers who entered the No Fire Zone on 19th April 2009 and again on the 9th and 15th May acted with considerable credit when they reached … civilians. They took risks to protect civilians and helped … the elderly who could not walk. Those who escaped have readily acknowledged this”.