India, China back Sri Lanka at HRC

Fourteen countries, including India have praised Sri Lanka for winning the war against a “terrorist group” and come together to support Sri Lanka counter charges of violating human rights law – a subject which comes up for discussion at a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva on Tuesday.

Signatories to a resolution titled “Assistance to Sri Lanka in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights,” to be placed before the special session include India, China, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Philippines, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nicaragua and Bolivia.

The special session has been convened at the request of 17 of the 47 members of UN’s Human Rights Council. These countries include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Britain.

Charges have been made both against the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

They are accused of killing, wittingly or unwittingly, thousands of civilians, including women and children, despite several appeals by the United Nations and international humanitarian organisations to observe a no-fire zone in the conflict areas.

The move to penalise both the government and the LTTE has been initiated primarily by the European Union. "It is hoped that the holding of this special session will contribute towards the cause of peace," HRC president Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi was quoted as saying.

The HRC has hled only 10 previous special sessions relating, among others, to Palestine, Lebanon, Darfur, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to a statement by the Geneva-based U.N. Watch on Friday, Sri Lanka has "preempted scrutiny" by the Human Rights Council by submitting its own resolution, supported by its allies. The resolution praises Sri Lanka for winning the war against a "terrorist group" and calls for funding by the international community.

Meanwhile, several international human rights and humanitarian agencies are raising concerns about restricted access to civilians and the government's insistence on a limited international role.

The U.N. and international aid groups have been granted limited access to the areas in and around the conflict zone, leaving them unable to confirm the status of the internally displaced people already in camps and to deliver much needed assistance.

"We hope all civilians are out of the conflict zone. It is hard to be absolutely sure," said U.N. under-secretary-general John Holmes, the world body's chief humanitarian coordinator.

"Whenever access is denied we are concerned. There were promises made that were never fulfilled. I think our main concern is to help the people who have got out," he told reporters Wednesday.

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