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Cablegate: Icrc Donor Support Group Visit to Sri Lanka

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R 291420Z APR 08
FM USMISSION GENEVA
TO RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0528
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6410
INFO RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 1946
RUEHDL/AMEMBASSY DUBLIN 1900
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0496
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2776
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 3002
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 5631
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 0799
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2716
RHEHNSC/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L GENEVA 000319

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/INS
DEPT FOR PRM/ANE/MPITOTTI AND PRM/MCE/ICRC/AREYNOLDS
DEPARTMENT FOR USAID/OFDA/RTHAYER
USAID/FFP/KSCHEIN AND USAID/ZSUDA
TUNIS FOR PMULREAN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/10/2018
TAGS: PREF PHUM PGOV EAID CE
SUBJECT: ICRC DONOR SUPPORT GROUP VISIT TO SRI LANKA

REF: COLOMBO 82

Classified By: RMA DEPUTY COUNSELOR KATHERINE PERKINS FOR 1.4 B & D.

1. (C) Summary: Geneva-based Refugee Officer (RefOff) Nick
Hilgert traveled to Sri Lanka from March 31 to April 5 with
the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Donor
Support Group (DSG) to visit ICRC project sites. The DSG is
made up of donors who contribute more than $10 million
annually to ICRC. RefOff visited sites in eastern Sri Lanka
(Batticaloa and Trincomalee) and the Terrorism Investigative
Division (TID), a detention facility for conflict related
detainees in Colombo. ICRC does not believe the current
fighting will lead to significant displacement in the
short-term and that it will remain contained in the Vanni.
ICRC's work in IDP camps in the east is decreasing as more
than 170,000 IDPs have already returned home and some 24,000
remain. However, livelihood projects for returnees are still
important and many returnees face a number of obstacles
restarting economic activities to support themselves. ICRC's
incident statistics in eastern Sri Lanka are mixed, with the
number of killings down since January and claymore mine
attacks remaining steady since December 2008. ICRC is
coordinating well with UN organizations and non-governmental
organizations (NGOs). The ongoing conflict in northern Sri
Lanka has significantly restricted access to the Vanni
region, and ICRC believes the overall number of persons held
in detention will increase in 2008. ICRC will soon submit a
report to the government it says proves the government has a
facility holding "high-level" detainees and will request
access to that facility. RefOff assisted ICRC distribute
letters and personal hygiene supplies to detainees in the TID
and met several persons recently arrested for suspected ties
to the LTTE. The Director of the TID announced he has
received authorization to hold a UK citizen for an additional
three months under the terms of the Protection Against
Terrorism Act (PTA), the first such case since the
government's withdrawal from the cease-fire agreement.
RefOff also met an Irish and Canadian citizen being held in
the TID. Other members of the DSG also traveled to Jaffna
and were equally impressed with ICRC's ability to access
difficult areas and visited the government's detention
facility for "surrenderees." Members of the DSG will raise
concerns at the DSG Meeting in May over ICRC's capacity to
retain qualified expatriate translators. End Summary.

Visit to Sri Lanka and PRM Support to ICRC
------------------------------------------

2. (U) Geneva-based Refugee Officer (RefOff) Nick Hilgert
traveled to Sri Lanka from March 31 to April 5 with the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Donor Support
Group (DSG) to visit ICRC project sites. Other participating
donors included Australia, Canada, the European Commission
(ECHO), France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the
United Kingdom. The DSG visited ICRC project sites in
Colombo, eastern Sri Lanka (Batticaloa and Trincomalee), and
northern Sri Lanka (Jaffna). This included visits to IDP
camps, livelihood and emergency shelter projects in areas of
return, protection activities and visits to detention
facilities. The DSG also met government officials, including
Basil Rajapakse, Senior Advisor to the President, Mr.
Jayantha Palipana, Acting Secretary at the MFA, and Mr.
Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Human Rights and Disaster
Management. The DSG is made up of donors who contribute more
than $10 million annually to ICRC. In 2007, the State
Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
(PRM) contributed $20 million to ICRC's operations in South
Asia and earmarked an additional $3.84 million to ICRC in Sri
Lanka. PRM has just announced a contribution of $22.1
million to ICRC's South Asia operations for 2008.

ICRC Presence in Sri Lanka
--------------------------

3. (C) ICRC has been in Sri Lanka since 1989. ICRC
currently has 521 national staff (83% male) and 70
international staff (53% female) working in 10 offices
throughout the country (Jaffna, Kilinochi, Puthukkudiyiripu,
Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Muthur, Ampara, Vavunya, Mannar, and
Colombo) with a budget roughly equivalent to $27 million.
ICRC staff represent 28 different nationalities, although
Swiss (17) and French nationals (12) represent 41% of all
staff. There are no U.S. nationals working with ICRC in Sri
Lanka. ICRC works in both the government-controlled areas of
Sri Lanka and in the conflict zone, currently the region of
the Vanni in northern Sri Lanka. ICRC's project activities
focus on the protection of civilians, (including recruitment
of minors and family tracing), assistance (including water,
sanitation, and shelter to IDPs and returnees) visits to
conflict related detainees, treating the wounded and sick,
and training of public authorities and the armed forces on
international humanitarian law (IHL). ICRC reports that in
2007 it provided food items and non-food items to more than
300,000 IDPs and returnees, provided access to water to more
than 83,000 persons (52,000 IDPs and 31,000 host-community
residents), cared for more than 400 patients in the Jaffna
Jaipur Center for Disability and Rehabilitation, and provided
more than 260 training sessions to more than 5,000
combatants, including government security forces and armed
members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

ICRC's View of the Current Conflict
-----------------------------------

4. (C) Toon Vandenhoove, ICRC Head of Delegation, told the
DSG that the conflict has moved north and is now focused in
the area of the Vanni. Vandenhoove believes that it is
unlikely there will be massive displacement from the Vanni in
2008 due to heavy bombing along the front defensive lines and
tight LTTE control over movement of the local populations in
the conflict area. (Note: ICRC staff characterized the LTTE
of using the local population as "human shields." End note.)
Vandenhoove said there has been some displacement out of the
Vanni, but he believes these numbers will remain below ICRC's
planning figure of a possible 120,000 IDPs in 2008 (Note:
ICRC's figures refer to maximum number of persons they would
likely assist, not the number of potential IDPs).
Vandenhoove said a number of persons have left the Vanni by
boat and that the government is holding a small number of
persons who escaped the Vanni in a camp-like facility in
Mannar. ICRC has been able to negotiate concessions from the
government to allow persons in this facility greater freedom
of movement. ICRC is preparing an assessment of health
conditions in the Vanni and indicated some supplies might not
be getting in due to the limited access. Another ICRC staff
member working in the Vanni believes that the government's
"state of siege" may break the LTTE before the end of 2008.

5. (C) Vandenhoove said the current conflict has restricted
ICRC's access to the Vanni (there is now only one access
point at Omanthai) and led to an increase in disappearances,
detentions, and casualties. Vandehoove believes the number
of conflict-detainees will increase in 2008 compared to 2007
and explained there is growing mistrust between the
government and the international community. He said the
government often charges ICRC and other organizations
publicly as LTTE collaborators and this has caused tension
with local populations. ICRC (and other organizations) is
also experiencing long delays getting visas issued to its
staff working in the north. Vandenhoove did say there has
been an overall decline in the number of known child soldiers
and ICRC is working closely with UNICEF and ILO to ensure
these children are assisted after their release. According
to ICRC, child soldiers are almost exclusively attributable
to the LTTE and the LTTE breakaway paramilitary/political
party in eastern Sri Lanka, the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai
Puligal (TMVP). Figures provided by UNICEF to Embassy
Colombo seem to indicate that there is still some
underreporting of child soldiers and that some of the decline
in known cases can also be attributed either to "runaways" or
a small number of children released by the TMVP directly to
their parents rather than to the UN.
Coordination
------------

6. (C) The DSG had the opportunity to meet with a variety of
UN agencies and NGOs working in coordination with ICRC,
including a larger discussion with the Inter-Agency Standing
Committee (IASC) Country Team (CT) in Colombo. The CT
explained that the UN's Cluster Approach was not adopted in
Sri Lanka and that they had decided to maintain a Sectoral
Approach (which divides responsibilities in a similar way as
the Clusters). Neil Buehne, UNDP Resident Coordination,
however, acknowledged that the Sectoral Approach in Sri Lanka
does not rely on the "agency of last resort" concept as
called for in the Cluster Approach, but he noted that most
agencies have been able to raise required resources when
needed. Parallel to the IASC Sectoral Approach, agencies
also established the Coordinating Committee on Humanitarian
Affairs (CCHA) in 2006 with the participation of the Ministry
of Human Rights and the Ministry of Defense, several
Embassies, Sri Lankan NGOs, the Government Agents (GA) based
in the various Districts as well as most members of the CT.
ICRC appears to have coordinated quite closely with the CT in
preparation of its Emergency Appeal and the UN humanitarian
appeal for Sri Lanka (CHAP) in order to avoid overalap. The
Sectoral coordination mechanism appears to function quite
well in the field as well and agencies report close
collaboration between the different organizations. An
increasing number of national Red Cross Societies, such as
the German and UK Red Cross, are moving away from their
Tsunami activities and using this money to providing conflict

SIPDIS
assistance.

IDP and Refugee Numbers
-----------------------

7. (U) UNHCR divides figures for Internally Displaced
Persons (IDPs) into two categories: those who fled before
2002, or "old caseload" IDPs (312,712), and those who fled
since April 2006, or "new caseload" IDPs (358,330). The old
caseload IDPs were initially registered by the government.
However, no verification exercise of this caseload has been
done recently and most live in host communities where they
receive very little assistance. According to UNHCR's
official statistics, approximately 97,000 IDPs are currently
located in "Welfare Centers" where they do receive
assistance. A Welfare Center in this context is basically an
IDP camp. This figure includes both old caseload IDPs
(67,000) and new caseload IDPs (30,000).

8. (C) UNHCR Representative, Amin Awad, told RefOff that the
number of IDP camps in eastern Sri Lanka has declined
recently from approximately 100 to just around 18. Awad said
the government has already returned some 170,000 IDPs, thus
leaving approximately 186,000 still displaced. Awad added
that around 100,000 of those IDPs are in the Vanni alone
where the conflict is ongoing. ICRC Batticaloa reported some
24,000 IDPs present in its District, more than half of whom
are in host communities (16,190) and the rest in camps
(9,848). Of those still in camps, approximately 6,500 are
from Trincomalee District and the rest from Batticaloa
District (3,258). ICRC reported that return movements are
organized almost weekly and that IDP numbers in the camps
continue to decline. RefOff visited the Kiran IDP Camp where
ICRC carries out shelter and Water and Habitat activities.
This is the largest remaining IDP camp in the area with only
about 150 families. ICRC said they are also taking care of
about 10,000 IDPs in the Vanni conflict zone. Awad said that
the number of Sri Lankan refugees who entered India since
2006 has remained steady at around 20,000, but noted that
recently UNHCR has received reports that some refugees are
returning to eastern Sri Lanka after hearing that peace has
returned to that region.

Fear of Return
--------------

9. (C) Basil Rajepakse, Member of Parliament and Special
Advisor to the President (Note: he is also the President's
younger brother. End note.), told the DSG delegation that
the main issues confronting IDPs who still have to return
include demining and livelihoods. Indeed, the DSG passed
many areas still closed off for demining during our visit.
Rear Admiral H.R. Amaraweera, Coordinating Director for the
Ministry of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services in
Trincomalee, informed the DSG that the main hurdles for IDP
return to Trincomalee included pro-LTTE elements in the IDP
camps who are advising IDPs against return, a lack of
awareness among the IDP population with regard to support
services available, a need for livelihood assistance, and
what he called the "wild boar and elephant menace" that is
destroying gardens and damaging homes. The government is
providing return transport for IDPs and in some areas has
built homes for returnees, although the vast majority of
shelter projects is carried out by NGOs such as the Dutch NGO
- ZOA, or international organizations such as ICRC.

10. (C) At the Kiran IDP camp, RefOff spoke to Jayamahan,
the Camp Community Leader, about why some IDPs have not
returned. Jayamahan recounted several stories of
pro-government elements abducting or even killing persons
they suspect of having either supported the LTTE or as having
pro-LTTE sentiment in the return areas. He said young men in
particular are targeted. He explained that he does not want
to even ask for his identification card because the "man
working there" (in Trincomalee) is Sinhalese. He also said
the TMVP (the TMVP won a majority in the recent local
elections in the Batticaloa District), which has an office
just outside the camp, had asked how many families did not
want to return to their former homes. Apparently 22 families
indicated they did not want to return. Jayamahan said he is
not sure if the TMVP will be able to help any of the families
remain in Batticaloa District, but affirmed that he was
definitely not going to return to his former home.

High Security Zone in Trincomalee
---------------------------------

11. (C) The government's decision to mark off a High
Security Zone (HSZ) in the Muttur Division of Trincomalee,
along the Koddiyar Bay, presents a number of problems for
potential returnees. According to ICRC, this area was
previously controlled by the LTTE and used as a base to
attack Trincomalee town on the other side of the bay. ICRC
said the Government does not want returning Tamil fishermen
to begin plying the waters again and has declared several
areas off-limits to return, mainly Sampoor West, Sampoor
East, and Koonitivu. According to ICRC, non-combatant Tamil
citizens often came under strong pressure from the LTTE to
support "the cause" during the war and even now, particularly
in the Vanni, Tamil families are still asked to provide one
child per family to the LTTE. Thus, it would seem reasonable
that both the Government and potential returnees may see
return to this area as a risky endeavor.

12. (C) Nevertheless, Government plans to relocate returnees
who originate from the now classified HSZ to other areas have
been criticized as "demographic engineering." In fact, the
government is reducing the size of the HSZ and some 6,600
IDPs will be allowed to return in "phases" to all but the
most sensitive areas as defined by the government. Roberto
Petronio, ICRC's Head of Sub-Office in Trincomalee, said the
remaining 2,249 families (8,094 persons) originally from the
HSZ will have to be relocated at some point and that "UN
agencies are unhappy" with the solutions currently offered by
the government. UNHCR is taking a pragmatic approach to the
return issue, assisting the government according to the terms
of a general agreement it has with the Ministry of Disaster
Management and Human Rights and is advocating for just
compensation for those who are relocated to new areas.

Forced or Voluntary Return?
---------------------------

13. (C) Many agencies stated that returnees have been forced
back and/or that many have been arrested or "disappeared"
after their return. In some return movements, the government
used food ration cards to pressure IDPs to return, taking
away the ration cards of those who chose to remain in the
camps. Others have returned to their villages only to find
that their homes have been destroyed, they have no water, and
other public services and infrastructure are lacking. Jens
Hesemann, UNHCR's Head of Field Office in Batticaloa, said
UNHCR recently convinced the Government to organize
go-and-see visits with returnees to help them decide if
return is appropriate for them before the government
organizes the movements. UNHCR also managed to persuade the
government to return food ration cards to those who had
decided to remain in the camps. During a DSG meeting with
Mahinda Samarsinghe, the Minister of Human Rights and
Disaster Management, RefOff asked if the government is
developing a plan with UNHCR to help those who want to stay
in the communities where they are currently located rather
than return. Samarsinghe discussed problems linked to
demining and infrastructure development, but did not mention
what the government will do with the caseload that does not
return. Many agencies confirmed the government has no actual
timeline in mind for completing the return process, although
UNHCR's agreement with the government refers to a broad phase
from 2008-2010.

Returnees Still Face Challenges
-------------------------------

14. (C) The DSG visited Kunjankulam Village, an ICRC
Economic Security (ECOSEC) project site located in the
Batticaloa District on the road to Trincomalee. Their
situation illustrates well the issues returnees face as
eastern Sri Lanka transitions to peace. The 50 families in
this village have been displaced four different times, with
the most recent displacement occurring from December 2006 to
March 2007. The villagers are inland fishermen and made
their living from a nearby lake before the war. The
government has placed a military camp right next to the
village and all villagers must have an authorization paper
from the military to travel outside the village. This paper
must be shown at all the military checkpoints in the region.
Military soldiers are located all along the main roads in the
area and we passed a military checkpoint nearly every
half-mile to a mile. Because the lake has been depopulated
of fish, villagers must now go to a river located 10 km from
the villages to fish. The village itself is located in an
isolated area and the dirt road used for transport is
impassable during the rains. ICRC has worked with the
villagers to establish contact between them and the Ministry
of Fisheries, to provide them with nets and other fishing
supplies, to restock the lake with three types of local fish,
and to provide them with tractor cars that are able to pass
through the mud when needed. Despite all this assistance,
the presence of military checkpoints and an early curfew
severely interrupt the villagers from carrying out their
normal economic activities. Several agencies pointed to this
type of livelihood project as vital to recovery in the region
and the transition to more development activities.

ICRC's Incident Statistics and Concerns
---------------------------------------

15. (C) ICRC's incident statistics in the Batticaloa
District reveal a mixed picture, although they do show a
decline in incidents for the February-March 2008 period when
compared to the figures for December 2007 and January 2008.
Overall incidents (killings, injuries, claymore mine attacks,
and handgrenade attacks) went from 23 in December 2007 to 36
incidents in January 2008, and then declined to 10 incidents
in February 2008 and 15 in March 2008. Within those
categories, killings declined from 14 in December and 17 in
January, to 6 in February, and just 2 in March. However,
claymore mine attacks have remained more or less steady (1 in
December, 1 in January, 0 in February, and 2 in March).
During the same period, ICRC's figures for the area under
control of the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) show 8 arrests, 12
disappearances (this includes reported cases and active
investigations), and 4 cases of underage recruitment. The
majority of incidents in SLA territory were committed by the
LTTE (8) and TMVP (8), followed by Unknown (6), the SDDP (1)
and the SLA (1). In the area controlled by the Special Task
Force (STF), ICRC recorded 31 arrests, 31 disappearance
cases, and 1 case of underage recruitment. Of these, the
perpetrators are Unknown (27) for the majority of cases,
followed by the STF (16), TMVP (8), the SLA (6) and the LTTE
(4).

16. (C) ICRC expects the buildup to the May Provincial
elections now to take center stage and that the security
presence will double if not triple in eastern Sri Lanka.
ICRC also expects occasional LTTE hit-and-run incidents and
plans to follow closely internal Muslim community tensions as
well as tensions between Muslims and the Tamil community.
Shootings in the area are still quite common, according to
ICRC, and it remains to be seen if and when the TMVP will
disarm. ICRC believes this will not occur until after the
elections. Although ICRC thinks the government will
intensify IDP return movements in the short-term, they
believe the government will cease IDP return movements a
couple weeks before the Provincial elections.

Detention
---------

17. (C) ICRC monitored the conditions of more than 2,700
persons arrested in relation to the conflict in almost 160
paces of detention in 2007. ICRC currently visits some 457
detainees arrested under Sri Lanka's Emergency Regulations.
These detainees have been arrested for their possible
connections to the LTTE and involvement in the conflict and
can be held for up to one year without being charged. These
persons are held in mostly temporary facilities that include
police stations, detention centers, and special units. ICRC
also visits 850 persons located in permanent places of
detention and some 100 persons located in Jaffna that the
government refers to as "surrenderees." These are mostly
families held in houses. Vandenhoove said ICRC will soon
submit a report to the government proving that the government
also has a facility holding "high-level" detainees and will
request access to that facility. ICRC indicated they have
some access to regular detention facilities controlled by the
LTTE, but that they do not have any access to conflict
related detainees under LTTE authority. ICRC provides
detainees with a registration number, mail exchange service
with family members, and donates a variety of supplies such
as books, magazines, personal hygiene supplies, and basic
clothing. ICRC depends on the linguistic skills of
locally-hired expatriate staff (in Sri Lanka and in many
other countries) to conduct their detention center visits.

Visit to the Terrorism Investigative Division
---------------------------------------------

18. (C) In Colombo, the DSG divided up into different groups
to visit four separate detention facilities: the Central
Investigative Division (CID), the Terrorism Investigative
Division (TID), and two remand prisons. RefOff joined two
other DSG members to visit the TID. The TID is located in a
building owned by the Sri Lankan Navy in an area called Fort
in downtown Colombo. ICRC explained that the Navy was taking
over offices on the upper floor and, as a result, was
displacing TID staff to share office space on the lower
floors where detainees are located. Immediately upon entry
to the facility, RefOff noted the ceiling was missing and
under repair in a small open office space where the
government is holding about 10 women. These women were
watched by one female guard. The majority were arrested with
their husbands. One woman said she had an M.A. in Performing
Arts she had earned in India and had worked with a professor
at Manchester University in the UK. Several women provided
ICRC with letters to be passed to their husbands being held
just on the other side of the building. Prison guards read
all correspondence before ICRC is allowed to turn over the
mail to the recipient.

19. (C) We then spoke to the Director of the TID who
informed our group that he had just received authorization to
detain a UK citizen (Mr. Gobadis) under the Prevention of
Terrorism Act (PTA) for an additional three months pending
the receipt of "international information." (Note: Mr.
Gobadis was originally arrested under the "Emergency
Regulations." The PTA allows detainees to be held for up to
18 months without being charged. End note.) According to
ICRC, the government could not invoke the PTA during the
Cease-fire Agreement (CFA), however, since the government
withdrew from the CFA restrictions on the use of the PTA no
longer apply. The Director confirmed this is the first time
the PTA is being invoked since the government's withdrawal.
The Director also showed us the blueprints for a new facility
they plan to build to hold detainees. The new facility will
have more space and will include a court yard where detainees
can exercise.

20. (C) There are two overcrowded holding cells in the TID,
both located next to the other. The smaller of the two cells
has three rooms. The heat in this cell was overwhelming and
it felt like we had walked into a sauna. The only vent in
the cell was broken. Two of the rooms, which would have been
crowded with just two persons inside, held four detainees and
the third room held five (Note: Each room was probably no
more than seven feet long and four feet wide with one stone
slab to sleep on. End note). Detainees also sleep on floors
and in the narrow corridor connecting the three rooms. ICRC
interviewed several new arrivals. One had been picked up
because his phone number appeared in another detainee's cell
phone list, quite common according to ICRC. Another
detainee, an older fisherman, said the LTTE had forced him at
gunpoint to ship supplies to the LTTE in the north by boat
and that he was subsequently arrested by police. He was held
for one month and a half in the CID before being transferred
to the TID and he showed us marks on his body where he had
clearly been beaten. (Note: The ICRC official said that
they had visited the CID while the man had been in detention
there but that the government had not presented him to ICRC
at the time. End note.) Another gentleman had also been
accused of shipping supplies by boat to the LTTE when he was
arrested.

21. (C) The other cell held 40 persons, although detainees
said there are often more than 70 in the cell. It was not as
hot as the first cell, but detainees here also have to sleep
on floors and in the corridors due to overcrowding. One
detainee had a pair of scissors and asked ICRC if they could
provide sharper scissors to the prison. RefOff later
observed the prison guard retrieving the scissors from the
detainee and placing them in a storage box on the wall in the
office. During the ICRC roll call, ICRC learned that several
former detainees had been sent to the remand prison where
they will await trial for possible charges that were made
against them. According to ICRC, being sent to remand prison
is often no better as detainees can end up waiting for many
years before their case ever comes to trial.

22. (C) We also visited the section in the TID where
"foreigners" are held. This area is a general office space
and many detainees were crowded onto benches while TID staff
worked inside open offices on their cases. ICRC explained
that detainees sleep on the floors in the same area where TID
authorities interrogate them during the day. The foreigners
we met were being held in separate office rooms, complete
with cabinets and chairs. Mr. Gobadis keeps his passport and
airline ticket in one cabinet and he retrieved it to show us.
Aside from Mr. Gobadis, we spoke to one Irish and Canadian
citizen. All three had been arrested during a temporary
return to Sri Lanka and have Sri Lankan origins. Mr. Gobadis
was detained at the airport when he tried to ship electronic
equipment back to London that he purchased in Colombo. The
Irish detainee said he used to operate schools in LTTE areas
during the cease-fire and was picked up at the airport when
he returned for a short visit from Singapore where he lives.
The Canadian, a former Sri Lankan refugee, was arrested while
visiting family, speculating that he was probably arrested
bcause he had GPS equipment. When ICRC informed Mr.Gobadis
that he would be held for three more monhs under the PTA, he
and the other detainees wer clearly concerned and asked when
the PTA had coe into effect and wanted to know what the
variou provisions of the PTA are. The Irish detainee
qestioned whether or not foreigners could even be hld under
the PTA.

23. (C) The detainees RefOf spoke to referred to IRC as
their "bridge" tothe outside world and their families and
readilywelcomed the supplies of books, clothing, and
peronal hygiene supplies ICRC distributed during our isit.
They were especially appreciative of the mail they could send
via CRC to their families. The other DSG members repoted
similar overcrowding conditions in the prisos they visited
and the group visiting the CID reorted widespread signs of
physical abuse of the etaines they met.

DSG Conclusions
--------------

24. (C) The DSG group was favorably impresed with the
quality and scope of ICRC's activitis in Sri Lanka. ICRC
appears to be working wellwith all agencies on the ground
and has focused n maintaining a clear role for its work in
areas here it can utilize its profile as a neutral andindependent organiz
ation. This allows ICRC to wor in areas
where most other agencies have difficuty gaining access.
RefOff did not join the group that traveled to Jaffna, but
feedback from that group indicates they were equally
impressed with ICRC's access and the breadth of activities
being implemented. The DSG will raise a number of issues at
the DSG Meeting at the end of May in Paris, but RefOff
believes the most important issue is ICRC's ability to retain
local expatriate staff with the required language skills to
conduct detention visits. ICRC will most likely lose two
such staff in Sri Lanka soon and this would have a negative
impact on ICRC's ability to provide detainees with its unique
and important service. According to ICRC staff, this is a
serious issue throughout South Asia.

Embassy Colombo has cleared this cable.
TICHENOR

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