India, Pakistan on the side of Sri Lanka in rights battle with West

New Delhi, May 25 : India and Pakistan find themselves on the same side with Sri Lanka as Europe accuses Colombo of ‘war crimes’ against the Tamils.

A special session of the UN Human Rights Council is due Tuesday in Geneva where Denmark and Britain are leading a vocal and sustained drive to pin down Sri Lanka. The deliberations could extend to Wednesday. The meeting became possible after Denmark got together 17 of the UN body’s 47 member countries to press for the special session to probe charges that Colombo violated human rights and committed “war crimes”.

A minimum of 16 signatures is a must to convene a special session.

This follows the deaths of thousands – according to UN statistics – in the heavy fighting the past few months between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), leading to the decimation of the once formidable rebel group exactly a week ago.

Dayan Jayatilleka, Sri Lanka’s ambassador and special representative to the UN in Geneva, alleged that a section of the West had attempted to prevent the military defeat of the LTTE and save at least a section of its leadership.

“Having failed, this (special session) is a punitive measure,” Jayatilleka told IANS in a telephonic interview.

He alleged that the LTTE had enjoyed a degree of patronage in some Western countries and sought to know if these countries would ever accord a similar status to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Sri Lanka, he said, was confident of defeating any resolution detrimental to its interests with the help of friendly countries in which he listed India, Pakistan, Russia, China, Cuba, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Nicaragua and Bolivia among others.

India and other countries are as much concerned as the others about human rights violations in Sri Lanka but resent the convening of a special session to discuss the issue.

The regular session of UN Human Rights Council is due in the third week of June, and Sri Lanka could have been discussed then.

The feeling in New Delhi is that some Western countries appear to be playing a larger game, perhaps setting a precedent to convene similar special sessions vis-�-vis other countries in the name of human rights. There is also growing disquiet over the way bodies like the UN Human Rights Council do not take seriously terror acts of powerful non-state actors such as the LTTE.

Britain, which along with Canada is home to tens of thousands of Tamils, has taken a visibly aggressive line against Sri Lanka, accusing its military of killing thousands in the name of fighting the LTTE.

A section of the West is also reportedly miffed with Colombo over the killing of a section of LTTE leaders who had apparently wanted to surrender to the army when the war was nearing its end.

Jayatilleka said it was regrettable that Sri Lanka was being pulled up when the world should be thanking it for crushing “one of the biggest brand names in the international terror market”.

“They are playing a dangerous game of pandering to militarized lobbies in their own countries,” he said, referring to Europe and the pro-LTTE Tamils. He warned that if Europe had its way at the special session, it would lead to “hardening of sentiments in Sri Lanka, narrowing of political space and be profoundly counter-productive”.