Coalition sidestepping push for external Sri Lankan human rights inquiry

March 25, 2014

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Photo: Andrew Meares

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Photo: Andrew Meares

The Coalition government is continuing to sidestep whether it will support an international investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka, despite Labor and the Greens backing it.

The US-backed resolution, to be debated by the United Nations Human Rights Council this week, aims to enforce an international independent investigation into alleged war crimes, which could lead to the prosecution of current members of the Sri Lankan government.

While an Australian government official will attend the debate, it is unknown whether Australia will back the resolution.

While Australia is not one of the 47 members of the council who vote, it is able to co-sponsor the resolution if it backs the inquiry.

Opposition spokeswoman for foreign affairs Tanya Plibersek called for Australia to support the investigation on Monday, saying we should support our ”usual allies”.

”Our call for the Australian government is to support the draft resolution before the Human Rights Council to reduce violations and abuses and [that] puts us in company with all of our usual allies,” Ms Plibersek said.

Under a Labor government in 2012 and 2013 the Australian government supported the Sri Lankan government to conduct its own internal investigations.

But Liberal MP Michael Sukkar hinted the Australian government may not back the external investigation, saying the government would rather work closely with the Sri Lankan government to improve human rights.

”It is this approach rather than one that seeks to isolate the Sri Lanka government that we consider will ultimately achieve human rights,” he said.

Mr Sukkar said the government was yet to receive the final text on the resolution and would ”not be pushed into making a decision by the Labor or the Greens”.

But time is running out. The council is set to meet on Thursday in Geneva.

In a letter to Ms Bishop, six eminent citizens including former foreign minister Gareth Evans, and former prime minister Malcolm Fraser have urged the government to support the investigation.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop would attend the UN debate.


The Editor

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