West’s Double Standards on Human Rights Undermines UN Human Rights Council

Viewpoint by Sugeeswara Senadhira

COLOMBO (IDN) — The United States, Britain, Canada and a few other Western so-called champions of human rights will press their unreasonable demand at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) next month to initiate an international probe into alleged human rights violations in the last phase of the separatist war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorists 13 years ago.

The 49th Regular Sessions of the UNHRC are due to begin on February 25, 2022.

The UNHRC claim evidence has been produced but refuses to share it with Sri Lanka or their law enforcement authorities to verify its authenticity.

On February 3, the U.S. attacked and killed Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, a dreaded terrorist, in Syria amid concerns about a potential resurgence from the terrorist group. It reflects the ongoing nature of U.S. involvement in military operations overseas, even after President Biden pulled American forces out of Afghanistan last year. In this drone attack at least 13 civilians including six children and four women were also killed. 

This kind of unavoidable civilian death could occur when the armed forces try to kill terrorists who cause scores of deaths of innocent civilians by their actions. Hence, it is unreasonable to call on President Biden to punish the soldiers who carried out the attack to kill the ISIS leader. 

What is highly objectionable is the UNHRC and others who refrain from taking up such issues against the U.S. or the UK, who blame Sri Lanka for alleged civilian deaths during the last days of the separatist war against Prabhakaran, the most ruthless terrorist leader in the world who is accountable for the lives of thousands of men, women and children including a President of Sri Lanka (Ranasinghe Premadasa) and a former Prime Minister of India (Rajiv Gandhi).

UNHRC picks on weak nations

The UNHRC wants to hold international investigations on the purported 2009 civilian deaths in Sri Lanka, but even after 50 years, the UNHRC is not in the least concerned about the British soldiers who killed thousands of innocent Irish civilians.

The UNHRC maintains a deafening silence on the killings of innocent Irish civilians killed by the British armed forces in Londonderry 50 years ago, despite the fact that clear evidence has been recorded that as many as 3,700 people died over the course of the four-decade conflict in Northern Ireland.

The most horrendous incident was on January 30, 1972, the Blood Sunday brutal killing of unarmed civilians holding a peaceful protest in the city of Londonderry in Northern Ireland. The people in several towns held events to mark the 50th anniversary of the brutal killing of 14 unarmed civilians by the British soldiers, who fired upon a crowd of protesters. On Sunday, January 30,  the family members of those killed held roses as they participated in a walk of remembrance.

“Today we remember all those who died or were injured as a result of the atrocity on #BloodySunday50, one of the darkest days for this island,” Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin said in a tweet. “We also pay tribute to the families of the victims, whose dignity and persistence in the search for truth and justice has never wavered.”

The Voice of America said the families of the victims are despondent over whether the soldiers involved will ever face trial. Charlie Nash saw his 19-year-old cousin William Nash killed as members of the British Parachute Regiment fired more than 100 high-velocity rounds on 30 January 1972, at the demonstrators in Londonderry.

“We thought there might be rioting, but nothing, nothing like what happened. We thought at first they were rubber bullets,” Nash, now 73, told AFP. “But then we saw Hugh Gilmour—one of six 17-year-old victims—lying dead. We couldn’t take it in. Everyone was running,” he said.

A public investigation later concluded that British soldiers fired on the unarmed protesters even though none of those killed posed a threat to the soldiers.

Prosecutors announced they were pursuing criminal charges against two British soldiers who took part in the Bloody Sunday shootings, but the cases were dropped last year.

The UK off the hook

What followed was most surprising. It was the introduction of the Overseas Operations Bill to protect UK soldiers from prosecution for crimes committed abroad after five years. This means that victims could be denied justice and offenders escape the law. The UK would also be violating numerous human rights treaties by not ensuring abuses are properly dealt with.

Ministers defending the Bill said, the goal of “the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill”, is to “establish the supremacy of the law of armed conflict.” The bill, according to the Government, will put an end to the seemingly endless acts of “lawfare” against British personnel.

However, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said, the new legislation has jeopardized the United Kingdom’s commitment to the rule of law. It was designed to make it close to impossible to prosecute almost all cases five years after the offence happened. This includes war crimes, torture or other appalling abuses. It places members of the Armed Forces above the ordinary criminal law – in a way that is completely unprecedented.

By the new Bill, the British Government effectively decriminalised torture. The critics point out that it is extremely dangerous for members of the Armed Forces to be given a free pass over alleged war crimes. Yet the Government was determined to protect those accused of torture and war crimes, instead of stopping them in the first place.

The HRW expressed fear that this Bill was one of several laws that the Government is trying to pass in the UK that is incompatible with “our human rights obligations” and added that such statute of limitations on war crimes committed by soldiers “is a blatant breach of international law”.

The above is the human rights position of the United Kingdom and its double standards. The other major accuser United States has a worse record than that. The U.S. human rights violations in Asia run into volumes from Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs, killing over 300,000 civilians instantly to Mai Lai napalm chemical attacks on Vietnamese women and children and horrendous killings of Afghan civilians. 

While the UK and U.S. openly cover up and protect their soldiers found guilty of human right violation abroad, they want to probe some alleged violations in Sri Lanka, with the connivance of UNHRC, a biased organisation according to former U.S. President Donald Trump.

While everybody agrees that nobody should oppose charges being brought against nations and States who have allegedly committed War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, it should not be a policy of pick and choose. Furthermore, one has to understand certain hardcore military actions are necessary when a State armed force fights a ruthless terrorist organisation like the LTTE, a terrorist group proscribed by many countries including the UK and the U.S. There is conclusive proof that some foreign forces including some of the very accusers and their proxies were involved in training LTTE terrorists and providing them arms in the past. 

It is apparent that the accusers as well as the UNHRC only pick on weak nations in Asia, Africa and South America to highlight alleged human rights abuses and leave the affluent nations alone.   

For over a decade now, the Sri Lankan government has been forced to defend itself against accusations of war crimes where no authenticated evidence has been provided by the accusers. This wastes a lot of precious resources of the Sri Lankan government in order to prevent foreign interference in their domestic affairs.

For most Sri Lankan observers it is a firm belief that the western powers are using the UNHRC in their geopolitical battles in Asia thus weaponizing human rights. The international community (outside the western block) need to rise up to this threat. [IDN-InDepthNews – 12 February 2022]

* The writer is a senior Sri Lankan journalist and political analyst, who is the International Media Director at the presidential secretariat in Colombo. The views expressed here are his own personal views.

Photo: The U.S. Mai Lai napalm chemical attacks on Vietnamese women and children is just one example of human rights violations by the U.S. and Britain. Credit: Greenlane.com

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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