Senate debates

Thursday, 13 February 2014


Sri Lanka

12:25 pm

Photo of Ursula StephensUrsula Stephens (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I, and also on behalf of Senators Moore, Rhiannon and Milne, move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes Australia's co sponsorship of the:

(i) 2012 United Nations (UN) General Assembly Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution calling on the Sri Lankan Government to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission of Sri Lanka and to take credible and independent actions to ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans, and

(ii) 2013 UN General Assembly HRC resolution expressing concern at continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, and reiterating the call on the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the Commission's recommendations and to fulfil its commitment to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law;

(b) notes:

(i) continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, and international concerns about insufficient progress by the Government of Sri Lanka in addressing justice, reconciliation and accountability, and

(ii) the forthcoming update to the HRC 24th session on the progress of the 2012 and 2013 resolutions;

(c) calls on the Australian Government to:

(i) maintain Australia's strong record of support for human rights at the 24th session of the HRC, including in relation to Sri Lanka,

(ii) support the United States in its call for the 'international community to establish an independent international accountability mechanism to evaluate reports of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other human rights violations committed by both sides during and after the war in Sri Lanka',

(iii) co sponsor any United States resolution at the UNHRC in March 2014 regarding Sri Lanka's progress on accountability and human rights, and

(iv) urge the Government of Sri Lanka to:

  (A) allow unimpeded access for media, international aid agencies, and human rights groups into all regions of the country, as well as to detention sites that may hold political and war prisoners, and

  (B) end its media restrictions, including the obstacles to the flow of information in the north and east, and bring to justice those responsible for attacks on journalists and newspaper offices.

12:26 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Leave granted.

The Australian government considers that engaging Sri Lanka, not isolating it, is the most effective way to encourage and advance progress on human rights and accountability, the rule of law and democratic governance, and to promote reconciliation. The government continues to urge the Sri Lankan government to give the highest priority to implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and regularly raises human rights issues with it. The government also consistently urges Sri Lanka to ensure all allegations of serious international crimes committed by both sides to the civil conflict are investigated and prosecuted in a transparent and independent manner. A decision on whether Australia will co-sponsor a US led resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in March will be made after due consideration of the final text and the balance of issues it raises. The motion as it stands would pre-empt this and, for that reason, we cannot support it. We encourage all parties to take a constructive approach towards the proposed resolution. Any resolution must go to assist the process of reconciliation. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.