Testimony delivered before the UN Human Rights Council by UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, March 26, 2014.

After Praising Sri Lanka for Killing 40,000 Civilians, The U.N. Must Atone

Today, in the form of the compelling report we have just heard, and the resolution that is before us, this Council faces a singular opportunity—and responsibility.

Let us remember what happened in this room five years ago.

On 26 May 2009, after Sri Lankan government forces had killed an estimated 40,000 Tamil civilians, this Council finally convened a session.

Only instead of condemning Sri Lanka for its atrocities—and holding perpetrators to account—this Council actually did the opposite: the resolution that ultimately went to a vote was the text sponsored and introduced by Sri Lanka itself.

It was co-sponsored by China, Pakistan, Iran, Syria and Sudan, and adopted by a vote of 29 to 12.

In one paragraph after another, the 2009 resolution praised Sri Lanka.

I am holding that resolution in front of you, Mr. President, which “reaffirmed the sovereignty of Sri Lanka”;

It “welcomed the liberation achieved by the government of Sri Lanka”; it “encouraged” Sri Lanka; it “welcomed Sri Lanka’s continued engagement”; and finally, summed up in Article 2, it welcomed, and I quote, “the continued commitment of Sri Lanka to the promotion and protection of all human rights.”

Mr. President, two years later, the Secretary General’s panel of experts urged the Council to reconsider that infamous act. Now is that chance.

We need an international mechanism to investigate the atrocities that took place during that time, before and after.

We need to know—the world needs to know—how Sri Lanka perpetrated large-scale and widespread shelling, causing tens of thousands of deaths; how it encouraged civilians to concentrate in no-fire zones, saying that they would cease the use of heavy weapons; how they shelled the United Nations hub, and food distribution lines.

We need to know the truth, Mr. President.

Now is that chance. Let us all vote for this international, independent investigation.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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