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The Daily News (Sri Lanka)
06 October 2007

GENEVA: ri Lanka appreciates the understanding of the international community during the current session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Professor G. L. Peiris, Minister of Export Development and International Trade, said in his keynote address at the University Centre for International Humanitarian Law in the University of Geneva.

() The understanding of the international community, Prof. Peiris said, derived in large measure from their realisation that the Government of Sri Lanka, in a difficult situation, was continuing to act in a spirit of fidelity to humanitarian values which underpinned its cultural heritage, while always paying attention - as indeed it must - to the crucial need to ensure the security and well-being of the public.

() The Minister, declaring that the consistent position of Sri Lanka was by no means isolationist, set out in detail the sustained engagement of the Government of Sri Lanka with the international community through a wide range of mechanisms.

() Minister Peiris said: hile the international community continues to have a vital role to play as friends and partners to whose counsel and support the Government attaches the highest value, unduly interventionist or aggressive attitudes lacking in sensitivity are counterproductive.

As an example of such unhelpful postures, the Minister referred to the ight to protect (R2P) doctrine, in the form in which it was expounded by Mr. Gareth Evans, former Foreign Minister of Australia and Chairman of the Crisis Group, in the Eighth Neelan Tiruchelvam Memorial Lecture delivered in Colombo in July this year.

Starting with the innocuous premise that each individual State has the responsibility to protect its population, a role is then ascribed to the international community to help States to exercise that responsibility. Gareth Evans goes on to state: f course there will be situations when prevention fails, and reaction becomes necessary....coercive military action is not excluded as a last resort.r
Although Evans insists that the ight to protect doctrine is not about responding to conflict and human rights abuses a generally, the inherent danger of the doctrine he propounds, Prof. Peiris pointed out, consists of the arbitrary power which the intervening States, in the name of the international community, purport to exercise in keeping with criteria which are, in reality, subjective and entirely dependent on their own unqualified discretion, in the absence of any defined or accepted norms.

This is the think end of the wedge: the consequences of so vague a theory are necessarily open-ended and unpredictable, and involve jeopardy to basic attributes of national sovereignty.

Prof. Peiris said that the United Nations 60th Anniversary World Summit, held in September 2005, in no way supported, even by implication, such a sweeping doctrine, since the Summit Document takes for granted the overriding authority of the Security Council within the established framework of public international law.

To abandon that anchor in pursuit of a shadowy and romantic doctrine is to invite dangers for greater in quality and in degree than the benefit which it could possibly entail, he said.

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