Sri Lanka's UN mission refutes newsreport on losing voting right at UNHRC

[TamilNet, Thursday, 10 January 2008, 12:40 GMT]
The Sri Lankan mission to the United Nations office in Geneva, on Thursday, refuted a front page story by the Colombo based news paper, Daily Mirror, which said Sri Lanka had lost its powers to vote at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). Urging the paper to publish an apology, the Sri Lankan mission, in a statement said it is a full fledged member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) with "all rights including the unfettered right to vote." Sri Lanka's two-year initial term as the elected member of the 47-seat HRC ends this year and a periodic review of the country is scheduled to take place between 516 May 2008.

The Human Rights Council (HRC), based in Geneva, was established on 15 March 2006 and consists of forty-seven Member States of the United Nations. The Council replaced the former 53-seat U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), which was often criticized for its failure to objectively address human rights violations in individual countries.

The HRC is an intergovernmental UN Charter-based body, which meets in Geneva 10 weeks a year, and is composed of 47 elected UN Member States who serve for an initial period of 3 years. Council membership is limited to two consecutive terms, and any Council member may be suspended by a two-thirds vote of the Assembly.

A key component of the Council is a periodic review of all 192 UN member states, called Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which is a mechanism based on reports from different sources, including the NGOs. Each country's situation will be examined during a three hours debate, during their term of membership. Sri Lanka's periodic review is scheduled to take place between 516 May 2008, during the second session of 2008.

13 of the 47 seats are allocated for the 44 Asian Member States of the United Nations.

Dr. Dayan Jayatillake, the ambassador and permanent representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office in Geneva, was also elected vice-president of the HRC, in June 2007.

During the sixth session of the Human Right Council, in December 2007, Dr. Jayatilleka declared that Sri Lanka would not be supporting any move to supplant or substitute human rights monitoring by the existing national institutions with International monitoring mechanisms.

Saying that he was proud of Sri Lanka's "national institutions," Jayatilleka said Sri Lanka's negotiations with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and international bodies "will always be informed by a determination that national institutions and national processes shall be supplemented and supported by international assistance, but shall never be supplanted or substituted by the non-national."

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