Cablegate: Sri Lanka: Mfa Issues Harsh Rebuttal to U.S. Human
DE RUEHLM #0347/01 0950948
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 040948Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7967
INFO RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 0822
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 7815
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 5998
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 4338
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1945
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 4337
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 3433
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 8422
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 5896
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 0606
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 2700
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 000347
DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS AND DRL/NESCA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV PTER MOPS CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: MFA ISSUES HARSH REBUTTAL TO U.S. HUMAN
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On March 31, the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs released publicly a detailed response to the U.S.
Human Rights Report, defending Sri Lanka's human rights
record and challenging much of the information cited in the
U.S. report. The preamble to the GSL paper charges that the
HRR is based on flawed information, fails to acknowledge the
"difficult environment in which the GSL operates," does not
include enough detail on LTTE human rights abuses, and
ignores GSL efforts to protect human rights and hold
violators accountable. The GSL document contains strong
language condemning the HRR, but provides little, if any, new
information on the government's human rights record. End
2. (U) On March 14, the GSL sent Ambassador a 4-page Aide
Memoire objecting to the U.S. Human Rights Report (HRR)
released on March 11. On March 31, the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs submitted to the Embassy - a day after the "preamble"
was leaked to news media - a fifty-page detailed response to
the HRR defending Sri Lanka's human rights record and
challenging much of the information cited in the U.S. report.
3. (U) The preamble charges that the HRR is based on flawed
information, fails to acknowledge the "difficult environment
in which the GSL operates," does not include enough detail on
LTTE human rights abuses, and ignores GSL efforts to protect
human rights and hold violators accountable. It includes a
lengthy list of local laws pertaining to human rights and the
international conventions on human rights that Sri Lanka has
Harsh Criticism from the GSL
4. (U) The GSL report condemns the HRR in strong language.
It describes the report as "replete with factual
inaccuracies, omissions, biased opinions, uncorroborated and
unsubstantiated statements, and blatantly unfair allegations"
based on "unfounded media reports and questionable sources."
It says "the approach of the HRR towards the GSL is critical
and judgmental, and such a slant undermines the objectivity
and impartiality of the report." It claims the report
"adopts a stance, which appears to be at variance with the
declared U.S. policy on terrorism and counter-terrorism...
and is implicitly supportive of terrorism." The GSL notes an
"approach adopted almost across the entirety of the report -
i.e. an eagerness to discount or discredit official efforts,
disregard clear facts on the ground, and justify
pre-determined conclusions." The GSL charges that the HRR
"has proceeded to violate witness rights by consistently
disclosing witness and victim identities and the details of
crimes allegedly committed against them." It also claims
that the HRR "published names of high ranking state officials
and discredited them with some wild accusations, without even
having the professionalism and good sense to either verify
the facts from independent sources or to apply the basic
principles of justice."
Substantive Arguments Sound Familiar
5. (U) The GSL's report provides little, if any, new
information on the government's human rights record. The
government's defense of several of the allegations made in
the HRR is as follows:
-- Extrajudicial Killings: The GSL continues to cite the
appointment of the Commission of Inquiry into serious human
rights violations as proof that it is addressing this issue.
The report notes that the COI has concluded some
investigations, and that two cases are at the public inquiry
stage. The report does not mention that the IIGEP has
resigned over concerns about the COI's failure to meet
COLOMBO 00000347 002 OF 003
-- Abductions and Disappearances: The GSL cites "an
international agency" that has confirmed a downward trend in
disappearances and killings during the second and third
quarters of 2007. The GSL says the list of 355
disappearances submitted by the Ambassador included 5
duplications, 6 persons who left Sri Lanka, 24 persons who
have been located, 4 persons who have died, and 3 that have
been arrested. They note that 106 cases were never reported
to the police and that the remainder are still being
investigated. The GSL report says the allegations of
disappearances in the HRR also contain duplications, and
persons who simply moved out of Sri Lanka or into the Vanni.
The GSL claims some reports were forwarded by NGOs "well
known to obtain funding in dubious ways and to exaggerate
and/or make conveniently blatant mistakes." The GSL also
notes that in many of the cases no reports were made to the
police, or that the families reported a disappearance to
strengthen their chances of getting visas to go abroad.
Finally, the GSL attributes many disappearances to forced
recruitment by the LTTE, adding that often the LTTE refuses
to claim the bodies of dead LTTE cadre and the families then
claim they are missing.
-- Child Soldiers: The GSL says the TMVP retains 164 children
under the age of 18. The government claims that now that the
Eastern Province has been cleared of LTTE, the problem is
likely to be resolved "soon."
--IDPs: The GSL report says there are 187,863 IDPs in Sri
Lanka, and that the resettlement of IDPs is slowed by the
process of clearing landmines. It argues that all
re-settlement of IDPs has been done on a voluntary basis,
and that this has been confirmed by UNHCR. The GSL denies
that IDPs are used for forced labor. The GSL notes the
enactment of a Bill on the Rights of the Internally Displaced
and Returnees and its recent efforts to begin dealing with
those IDPs who were displaced from the North by the LTTE in
--Media Freedom: The GSL argues that the Sri Lankan media is
dominated by private news organizations, and that there is no
press censorship in Sri Lanka, even on information pertaining
to security and military matters. According to the GSL, any
journalists detained have been arrested on suspicion of
terrorist activity unrelated to their professional
activities. The GSL adds that is has provided access to
conflict areas in the North, and has even allowed the media
to interview terrorist leaders.
--Religious Freedom: The GSL notes that freedom of religion
is enshrined in the constitution and that all Sri Lankans are
free to practice the religion of their choice. The
government argues that the HRR has used reports of isolated
incidents to create the false impression that there are
tensions between Buddhist and Christian communities.
--Impunity: The GSL notes that 150 indictments were served
on 600 members of the security forces for human rights
violations prior to 2004. Since 2004, 42 indictments have
been made against 90 persons for allegations of torture.
Twenty five of these cases are pending. According to the
GSL, six members of the armed forces and police were arrested
in June 2007 for involvement in abductions for ransom and
murder. (It fails to note, however, that on recommendation
of the Attorney General, these individuals were released and
charges dropped in January 2008.) Two members of security
forces were arrested and charged with murdering five students
in November 2006. The only convictions mentioned, however,
are two members of the air force who were convicted for
violating the human rights of a journalist. Those convictions
are currently under appeal, according to the government.
COLOMBO 00000347 003 OF 003
6. (SBU) COMMENT: This latest report on human rights from
the GSL echoes many of the arguments they have used before,
but contains the strongest criticisms of the U.S. to date.
However, the GSL's arguments are weak and even contradictory.
For example, the MFA complains on the one hand that the U.S.
does not cite specific sources, and later on that we name
specific names in the report, thereby endangering victims.
The government's constantly-reiterated assertion that many of
the "disappeared" have eloped, gone on vacation or to take up
jobs abroad, or have been the victims of forced recruitment
by the LTTE (note: from government-controlled areas,
including high-security zones) is simply false. The GSL also
claims it is not getting enough credit for the good things it
is doing, such as restoring democracy and development in the
East. We have explained to the GSL that these are not issues
covered by the HRR. Similarly, we have expressed to the GSL
that it is not enough to have laws on the books; those laws
must be enforced and violators held accountable.