On March 15, 2006, the United Nations set up the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to promote and protect human rights around the world. It seeks the assistance and cooperation of States and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to monitor, report, advice and contribute best practice to ensure that it’s impartial vision is untainted and objectively [...]

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Bias attitude of UNHRC and other UN-affiliated bodies towards Lanka


On March 15, 2006, the United Nations set up the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to promote and protect human rights around the world. It seeks the assistance and cooperation of States and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to monitor, report, advice and contribute best practice to ensure that it’s impartial vision is untainted and objectively exercised in its global mission.

UNHRC in session at its headquarters in Geneva: Serving the interest of some powerful states

However, over the years various countries, States, ethnicities, religious and lifestyle groups have begun to accuse the UNHRC of bias and partisanship. It is also accused of serving the interests of certain powerful States and political entities. Many sources observe that these global NGOs are funded by the said agencies to serve as their advisors and attorneys.

Petitioners against UNHRC

The main accusers of bias within the UNHRC and its related organisations are global minority ethnic groups such as the Jews of Israel and their global diaspora, the Buddhists of Myanmar, Laos, Kampuchea, Vietnam, Thailand and Sri Lanka with claims to historical homelands.  Their main fears are the loss of their own fundamental human rights including the traditional lifestyles, culture and historical homelands to recent settlers brought by the almighty European adventurists of the last few centuries. They also fear that even though European imperial rule is no more, the very fundamental attitudes of former imperialists are evident within the functional arms of the UN.

The UNHRC is today accused of being a covert front to satisfy the former imperial powers to continue their global domination through proxies placed in networked nerve centres, of which the UNHRC takes priority. Therefore, global opinion today is polarised on the very functionality of the UNHRC and the path it seems to be misdirected in the name of human rights. On the one hand, countries such as Israel express deep dissatisfaction on matters such as the allocation of Country Rapporteurs who deem to have made public statements with anti-Israeli bias as well as focusing disproportionately on the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The very purpose of the UNHRC is questioned with regard to its tangible mission achievements.

Vietnam is another example of a country attempting to reinstate its human values after being brutalised for over 20 years on a ‘scorched earth’ policy just a few decades back by military adventurists to the Indochina region.

Influence of INGOs on UNHRC

Today the INGOs are well funded, their grants and fund distribution being competitive with an increasing army of well trained and educated human resources with millions of members as a support base. This offers opportunity for patrons of diverse interests to hire the services of these personnel. There are some noteworthy giants among the global NGO community. They specialise on human rights and are directly involved with the UNHRC.

Three of the frontline NGOs that are universally mentioned in relation to global human rights at the UNHRC are (i) Amnesty International (AI), (ii) International Crisis Group (ICG) and Human Rights Watch (HRW). Each of these non-governmental organisations has considerable funds and human resources which enable them to employ thousands of human rights specialists in almost all the countries. These in turn either have their own in-country staff or are served by satellite agencies receiving funds from them. It is no secret that most INGOs and national NGOs are recipients of vast direct funding by certain governments through their “International Development Funding allocations”.

The missions of NGOs receiving such funding are to ensure that the visions of the donor countries and agencies are expedited as outreach executives, see: https://www.globalpolicy.org/ngos/introduction/31508-funding-for-ngos.html.

The targeting of countries for submission to remote control measures of global powerbases through INGO and NGO funding has resulted in a gradual increase of complaints and disciplinary measures against these NGOs. Some NGOs complain that their own rights are violated to crisis point by certain countries, see: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/02/global-assault-on-ngos-reaches-crisis-point/

Influence of International media

It is a fact within democracies that freedoms and privileges of investigative journalism are unparalleled in comparison with other professions. Theirs is a licence to publish whatever they consider as of interest to the public; thus their empowerment as the Fourth Estate.

Embedded journalists within warring factions and the theatre of war have opportunities to broadcast to the world alleging violations of human rights by one party or both parties in conflict. They also have the power to sway public opinion locally, regionally and internationally. Their documentary and audio-visual records may be used as evidence not only to swing the final outcome of a war but also for post-war enquiries by global guardians of human rights, such as the UNHRC.

They may also be credible witnesses in international trials on war crimes including any signs of genocidal intents by any party in military combat. However, among these are individuals who have sincerely stood up for human rights during war. There have been classic examples such as those in the Vietnam War where Eddie Adams’s photograph of a suspected Viet Cong man being shot in public by an ARVN officer or the 1972 photo by Nick Ut of a little naked South Vietnamese girl running away from bombings, screaming in pain due to Napalm bombs of the United States. Even a single photograph of such horrors could turn the tide of national and global opinion against the most powerful countries of this planet some decades ago. Today vast progress has been made in Information Technology (IT) with a diverse range of audio-visuals supplied to members of the UN and its HRC by various agencies. They can sway opinion and the process of justice against violators of human rights anywhere.

UNHRC: Bias or misguidance?

As discussed above, there clearly are a diverse range of interested parties which petition the UN and its HRC in the name of safeguarding global human rights. There are parties who supply information and evidence which are expected to justify their seeking justice through the UNHRC with due punishment to the perpetrators of such heinous crimes. Indeed the predisposition to some wars and crimes therein is with the intention to commit genocide. Sadly bogus or concocted information and doctored audio-visuals can sway the scales of justice against innocent parties also.

The ever increasing diversity of participatory agencies as discussed above and the actors in this theatre of global inquisition and clamour for international jurisdiction necessitates an absolutely objective, impartial, cautious and conscientious roleplay by the UNHRC. Any bias or misguidance will necessitate a review of the practices at the UNHRC by the UNGA itself.

On June 20, 2018, the BBC reported: “The US has pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling it a “cesspool of political bias”. Nikki Haley, the US envoy to the UN, said it was a “hypocritical” body that “makes a mockery of human rights”. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/44537372. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres responded to the US decision to quit the council by saying he would have “much preferred” the US to remain a member. The UN’s human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called the US withdrawal “disappointing, if not really surprising, news”. Israel, meanwhile, praised the decision.”

Is there bias against Sri Lanka?

The above discussion presents a resumé of the broader yet essential rationale on potential agents and beneficiaries from a bias against any country at the UNHRC. The potential for grave dangers of disaffection leading to disharmony among the global nations if the UNHRC is seen to be biased can never be understated.  When members such as the US make such clear and defined accusations of bias within the UNHRC, it needs urgent scrutiny. The UNHRC must address the very causes of such bias if the world at large is to have confidence and respect for the UNHRC.

The Sri Lankan experience with the UNHRC so far has been not much different from similar Asian countries in the bias apparently created by powerful NGOs, their paymasters as well as the global media giants and their local in-country agents.  Whatever the origins of international partisanship towards the Tamil “cause” were for decades, much false information has been corrected in the post-war decade.

Today the official missives from the High Commission in Colombo to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London are quoted in the Upper House of Parliament by such eminent dignitaries as Lord Naseby. He has stood up for truth to be exposed on factual basis and justice be served on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth regarding the Eelam War in Sri Lanka. The false allegations and nature of alleged war crimes and casualties caused by the Sri Lankan State during the last stages of the Eelam war are thereby contradicted and challenged.  The potential vast injustice done to the government, the defence forces and the very people of Sri Lanka by diverse agents of partisanship discussed above, needs to be corrected through an unbiased approach to the overviews which led to Resolutions such as 30/1 passed by the UNHRC to Sri Lanka. Neither is it necessary to list the articles therein as it is available publicly, nor is there any need to present a discourse on the motives of bias and falsehoods underscoring such demands from Sri Lanka.

As truth emerges and false accusations are corrected, those wishing to benefit from procedures at the UNHRC presently against Sri Lanka are becoming restless and disgruntled.

In its latest report for 2020, the ICG has categorised Sri Lanka as the only Asian country to be on its Watch List. Essentially, they want Sri Lanka to be the whipping boy at the disciplinary hands of the UNHRC.

The UNHRC must ensure that it does not entrust inquiries to officials with ethnic roots or affiliations to any respondent or prosecuting parties.  The process of targeting Sri Lanka as a whipping boy for those in power began with the insistence of the Tamil South African jurist, Navi Pillay during her tenure as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Instead of declaring the conflict of interests based on her ethnicity, she used her position to influence the highest destinations at the UN to the extent of recommending a private investigative team of her allies such as Yasmin Sooka to produce a factually dubious and false report termed the Darusman Report for the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. The UNHRC has passed three resolutions against Sri Lanka based on this personally commissioned report. A private report never tabled at the UNGA, UNSC or even UNHRC surreptitiously leaked to the public was used by the UNHRC to pass punitive resolutions against a member country; see: http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2019/12/31/30-questions-for-unsg-un-human-rights-council-regarding-sri-lanka-2/. It is now being challenged as an illegal and unwarranted exercise beyond the very charter of the United Nations.

Clearly, the UN has to inquire into these allegations. Such precautions will preserve the clear springs of impartiality and objectivity within this much needed august global guardian of human rights.

(The writer is Former Chairman of the Ocean University and former Ambassador for Sri Lanka in Vietnam)

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