For Sri Lanka, More Empty Words

Samanth Subramanian in the New York Times:

Ce-mapA year ago, when I was living in Colombo, Sri Lanka, I arranged to meet a friend for lunch, to talk about a Sri Lankan journalist who had gone missing and was presumed dead. By the time we met, my friend had a new mission: to keep another Sri Lankan safe.

The previous day, the United Nations Human Rights Council had passed aresolution “noting with concern” the Sri Lankan government’s refusal to address serious allegations of human rights abuses by the military — carried out during and after its 26-year war with the separatist Tamil Tigers, which ended with a defeat of the rebel group in 2009.

A number of Sri Lankan activists had flown to Geneva to lobby for the resolution, to their government’s dismay. Commentators on state TV lambasted them as villains and traitors, and word reached several of the activists that they might not want to rush back home. So my friend and I spent that sticky afternoon trying to help one get to safety, assembling the papers she needed to apply for a visa to the United States, where she hoped to lie low for a while.

Yesterday, the Human Rights Council voted once again to urge the Sri Lankan government to investigate “alleged violations of human rights” — or what The New York Times called “polite diplomatic shorthand” for the growing evidence that government soldiers killed tens of thousands of civilians in their bloody campaign to crush the rebels. But as with last year’s resolution, this year’s Council vote offers little more than hand-wringing.

While they carry symbolic weight, such resolutions may, in fact, be impeding progress rather than facilitating it.

More here.