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Cablegate: Sri Lanka: Government Criticizes Eminent Persons;

VZCZCXRO4263
OO RUEHBI RUEHLMC
DE RUEHLM #1358/01 2751236
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 021236Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6908
INFO RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN PRIORITY 0544
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 0442
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 7429
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 5567
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 4052
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1421
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 4105
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 3191
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 8023
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 5649
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 0409
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 2352
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 001358

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS
MCC FOR D NASSIRY AND E BURKE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PHUM MOPS CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: GOVERNMENT CRITICIZES EMINENT PERSONS;
INTERNATIONAL PANEL NEARS END GAME

REF: A. COLOMBO 1171
B. COLOMBO 966
C. COLOMBO 835 (AND PREVIOUS)

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The International Independent Group of
Eminent Persons (IIGEP) submitted its second Interim Report
to the President on September 18 and released its third
public statement on September 19. The Commission of Inquiry
(COI) and Attorney General's (AG) office sent strongly-worded
letters to IIGEP Chairman Justice P.N. Bhagwati this week,
objecting to the substance of the statement and the process
by which it was released. On September 25, Ambassador and
other Heads of Mission of the IIGEP donor countries discussed
the GSL's reaction to IIGEP's third public statement, UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour's upcoming
October visit, and the future of IIGEP. The Ambassadors
agreed that Arbour's advice about the future of IIGEP and the
views of the Eminent Persons (EPs) themselves would be
significant factors in determining how long to extend
funding. IIGEP's efforts have yet to produce significant
results in clearing up the cases under investigation.
However, IIGEP's suggestions for improving the draft witness
protection law, if incorporated into the final legislation,
may yet provide a return on the donor countries' considerable
investment. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On September 18, IIGEP submitted its second
Interim Report to the President. There has been no response
to date from the President's office to this report, or to the
first Interim Report submitted in June 2007. IIGEP released
its third public statement on September 19. As required, the
statement was submitted to the COI and the AG's office two
weeks in advance. Neither office responded to the statement
in writing within the 2 week deadline.

GSL Letters Criticize IIGEP
---------------------------

3. (SBU) The COI and AG's office subsequently sent
strongly-worded letters to IIGEP Chairman Justice P.N.
Bhagwati, which were made public, objecting to the substance
of IIGEP's most recent public statement as well as the
process by which it was released. The AG's letter, dated
September 22, noted that the release of the statement
appeared timed to coincide with the 6th Session of the UN
Human Rights Council and implied that the EPs had intended to
influence the deliberations of the HRC. The AG reiterated
his previous defense of his office's role within the COI,
saying the AG does not direct investigations, but merely
advises COI investigators. As a result, he said, there is no
conflict of interest. He noted that the COI is not entitled
to financial independence because it is not a permanent body.
Instead, it must continue to rely on the Presidential
Secretariat to approve all funding requests. He added that

SIPDIS
new legislation on providing assistance and protection to
victims of crime and witnesses will likely be presented to
the cabinet soon and will likely be in place within the next
two months. Therefore, he said, IIGEP should not make public
statements that undermine public confidence in the GSL's
ability to protect witnesses. He urged the IIGEP to engage
with the Commission in a more constructive manner.

4. (SBU) The COI's letter, dated September 24, expressed
"shock" at the IIGEP's decision to release the third public
statement "in grave violation" of the procedures outlined in
the Presidential Invitation to IIGEP. The COI said it
explained its objections to the public statement in a meeting
with Japanese Eminent Person Yozo Yokota on September 18 and
on the same day sent a letter to the Eminent Persons
outlining COI's concerns. (Note: The IIGEP Secretariat was

COLOMBO 00001358 002 OF 003


not copied on this e-mail "letter," which was sent just
before midnight on September 18. IIGEP released its
statement before it became aware of the letter's existence.)
The release of the public statement, despite the COI's
objections, is "disrespectful of the COI and contrary to your
mandate contained in the Presidential Invitation," according
to the COI's letter. The COI claimed the IIGEP has taken "an
adversarial role vis-a-vis the COI and its work" which
"probably reflects the IIGEP's mindset that they have a
monitoring role." The COI noted that the international
community has committed substantial resources to support the
IIGEP's work, which is "lost when the IIGEP are not
physically present to observe" COI's proceedings. COI also
complained that the IIGEP had failed to promptly pass on
third party information to the COI in violation of the
Presidential Invitation.

Heads of Mission Discuss IIGEP's Future
---------------------------------------

5. (SBU) On September 25, Ambassador attended an IIGEP
donors' meeting hosted by the Dutch Ambassador, including
Heads of Mission of Australia, the European Union, and
Canada, as well as IIGEP Assistant Dennis Milner. The group
discussed the GSL's reaction to IIGEP's third public
statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise
Arbour's upcoming visit (October 9 to 13) and the future of
IIGEP. Participants agreed that the recent exchange of
letters between IIGEP, the GSL, and the COI was unlikely to
help the situation. They noted that the COI and AG letters
addressed procedural problems while ignoring the substance of
IIGEP concerns. Canadian High Commissioner Angela Bogdan,
who had recently met Arbour (a Canadian) in Geneva, reported
that Arbour's goal for her visit is GSL permission for the UN
OHCHR to expand its presence in Sri Lanka. IIGEP Chairman
Bhagwati, Canadian Eminent Person (EP) Bruce Matthews, and
European Union EP Jean-Pierre Cot plan to be in Colombo
during the Arbour visit. Heads of Mission agreed that
Arbour's advice about the future of IIGEP and the views of
the EPs themselves would be significant factors in
determining how long to extend funding. Milner observed that
the EPs have differing opinions on this subject. European
Commission Head of Delegation Julian Wilson said that the EU
would fund IIGEP until the end of June 2008 and would
consider extending funding as late as 2010, albeit on a much
reduced basis. Bogdan said Canada's funding would expire in
March. Dutch funding will stop at the end of 2007.

Formal Extension Not Yet Granted
--------------------------------

6. (SBU) The COI has yet to ask the President formally for
an extension of its mandate, which is set to expire on
November 3. However, the COI has informed IIGEP that the
President likely will extend the mandate for six months or a
year. The date of the next IIGEP Plenary has not been set,
but is planned for mid-November.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Donor countries' considerable investment
in IIGEP has not yet produced results in terms of clearing up
the serious abuses under investigation, or holding those
responsible accountable. It is likely that during the
November Plenary, the COI will announce the extension of its
mandate and request that IIGEP extend as well. Embassy
believes that unless considerable progress is forthcoming in
the next few weeks, the Eminent Persons may well decide to
decline this invitation. (Note: It is not clear that there
is sufficient donor support to carry on the work of IIGEP
even if the EPs were prepared to continue.) If the visits of
Louise Arbour and UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred

COLOMBO 00001358 003 OF 003


Nowak (October 1-8) do not go well, the GSL may be tempted to
blame IIGEP for the failings of the COI. If the IIGEP
decides to end its work on schedule, EPs and Assistants will
have to make tough decisions about what to do with the
information they have gathered from witnesses, who have much
to fear should their identities be revealed. The IIGEP's
most enduring legacy may turn out to be its contribution to
the new witness protection law. However, it is uncertain at
this point how many of the IIGEP's suggestions the Justice
Ministry will incorporate into the final legislation.
BLAKE

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