There was a bit of irony, but also self interest in the vote. Sri Lanka’s resolution implicitly resists any council scrutiny by invoking the “the principle of non-interference" in matters "essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of States.” But Neuer said that when Sri Lanka was on the council from 2006 to 2008, it voted 23 times for the opposite principle, in 19 resolutions criticizing Israel and 4 on Myanmar." UN Watch slams Sri Lanka and allies for preempting U.N. emergency session with self-congratulatory resolution, Human Rights Tribune, May 22, 2009 (quoting in part Hillel Neuer, a member of a human rights non-governmental organization, UN Watch). The voting pattern suggested the nature of the alignment of interests. "Regional powers battling internal conflicts of their own -- such as Russia with Chechnya, India with Kashmir, and China with Tibet -- backed the upbeat text along with Iran, Venezuela, Myanmar, Pakistan and other developing states." Laura McInnis, U.N. Body Backs Sri Lankan Resolution on War, Reuters, May 27, 2009. Indeed, "Several Western states tried to amend the text to pressure Sri Lanka to improve humanitarian access to its camps, but were blocked by Cuba which requested a move directly to a vote." Id.
There is irony and opportunity here. The irony: while "Dozens of countries also called for Colombo to give its minority Tamils and Muslims a political voice to ensure lasting peace in a country where Sinhalese are an ethnic majority." (U.N. Body Backs Sri Lankan Resolution on War, Reuters, May 27, 2009) "Sri Lanka’s proposed text is co-signed by Indonesia, China, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Bahrain, Philippines, Cuba, Egypt, Nicaragua, and Bolivia." ( UN Watch slams Sri Lanka and allies for preempting U.N. emergency session with self-congratulatory resolution, Human Rights Tribune, May 22, 2009). The opportunity, of course, extends beyond states with internal, or arguably internal disputes--it might well affect other states with ambiguous conflicts, principally Israel. It should appear harder for states to support both a free hand against internal scrutiny in Sri Lanka and attempt extensive internal scrutiny in other conflict zones without losing a measure of legitimacy. Sure, it is possible to distinguish among conflicts. But such distinctions lose their power under comparison with Sri Lanka and its conflict. Israel, Myanmar, even the Sudan, ought to take special notice of this action by the UN.
More importantly, it represents a slap at European states that have sought to extend, through doctrines like international jurisdiction, the judicial power to examine the treatment of individual by non-Western and non-European states under international human rights and humanitarian law. For the greatest winner in this vote, for which much thanks ought to be extended to their friends in China, Iran, Cuba and Russia, is the former president of the United States and his ministers. For an example, see, e.g., Julian Borger and Dale Fuchs, Spanish Judge to Hear Torture Case Against Six Bush Officials, The Guardian (UK) March 29, 2009. Non-aligned states, among others, have indicted a wariness about the use of judicial process in general, and the organs of the United Nations, in particular, to examine too closely the internal police activity of states. That notion ought to apply equally to all states--though it won't. But that un-evenness in application will do as much to discredit future assertions by these states of actions against particularly targeted nations--than it will advance the construction of a regime of global human rights administered through supra national structures. This, of course, is npt to suggest that Sri Lanka engaged in any conduct that violated any sort of internal ior international norms. It does suggest, though, that total victory in conflict stills means something, outside of Europe, and that the determination of human rights and humanitarian law through internaitonal organizations remains highly political. The result will be a greater complication in international relaitons that rest on judicialization and legalization of conduct norms by states.