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Cablegate: Two Envoys Make Little Progress On Human Rights

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


This cable replaces Colombo 1837.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Former Amnesty International
head Ian Martin found the GSL eager to inject a
human rights component into the peace process, but
the LTTE rejected any discussion of human rights
until after talks on the cease-fire had resumed.
Former Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission head General
(ret.) Trond Furuhovde got much the same: the GSL
is ready to have talks on the cease-fire
agreement, but the LTTE won't do anything until
after the Presidential elections.

Human Rights Later

2. (U) Ian Martin, former head of Amnesty
International and now working for the United
Nations in Nepal, visited Sri Lanka October 12-16
to follow up on the human rights aspects of the
peace process on which he had been involved during
the peace talks between the GSL and the LTTE.
(Martin had worked on a draft joint memorandum on
human rights after both parties expressed interest
in the idea at the last round of peace talks in
Hakone, Japan in April 2003. The memorandum was
to have been presented to both parties at the next
round of talks that never took place.) Martin's
return to Sri Lanka stemmed from a joint
invitation from the LTTE and the GSL Peace
Secretariat (brokered by the Norwegians).

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3. (SBU) In two briefings with diplomats during
the week attended by DCM, Martin said he had found
the GSL, in particular Peace Secretariat chief
Jayantha Dhanapala, very enthusiastic about
dusting off the document Martin had prepared for
the peace talks ("sort of a human rights road
map," Martin said). Beyond a joint declaration on
human rights, Dhanapala told Martin the GSL
continued to support human rights training for
both sides and was receptive to the idea of
strengthening the human rights element of cease-
fire monitoring (perhaps by adding a human rights
component to the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission -

4. (SBU) Not surprisingly, Martin found a
different atmosphere in Kilinochchi when he met
with LTTE political chief Tamilchelvan (Martin saw
him right after Tamilchelvan meet with Norwegian
envoy Trond Furuhovde with whom Martin traveled to
and from Kilinochchi). Tamilchelvan said the LTTE
a joint human rights declaration was "possible and
feasible" but that it could not happen in advance
of talks with the GSL on improving cease-fire
implementation (Tamilchelvan said the LTTE was
"anxious" to participate in such talks if the
venue issue could be resolved). Tamilchelvan was
receptive to the idea of human rights training (a
UN human rights official who attended one of the
briefings said the UN has conducted seventeen
human rights training sessions for the LTTE since
the CFA came into effect). Martin commented that
Tamilchelvan's anger over the EU travel ban was

5. (SBU) In terms of human rights monitoring,
Martin said the LTTE was adamant that only an
international body could do the job in Sri Lanka
since the Human Rights Commission (HRC) was not to
be trusted, nor was any other entity in Sri Lanka.
(Comment: The LTTE murdered the last head of the
HRC, Neelan Tiruchelvam, and hates his successor,
Radhika Coomaraswamy, herself a Tamil, considering
her a traitor to the Tamil cause.) Tamilchelvan
complained that whenever there is an incident in
GSL-controlled territory, the government blames
the LTTE but does not conduct any sort of serious
investigation (Martin said the GSL, on the same
subject, complained that they cannot conduct
investigations since the perpetrators and key
witnesses always disappear into LTTE-controlled
areas). Martin said the LTTE was very angry about
an attack on senior LTTE cadres in the East the
day before he went to Kilinochchi, but tightlipped
about the murder of two school principals in
Jaffna the same day. Martin said he pushed hard
on the general issue of political killings but
"got nowhere" with Tamilchelvan.

6. (SBU) Martin held meetings in Kilinochchi with
the North East Secretariat of Human Rights
(NESOHR), the LTTE-created human rights
organization and attended a ceremony in which
NESOHR "released" twenty-five child "volunteers"
who had been handed over to them by the LTTE
(Martin said he insisted that the SLMM and UNICEF
also be present). Martin said the relationship
between the LTTE and UNICEF seemed to perhaps be
rebounding after a recent visit to Kilinocchi by
the new UNICEF country representative. There had
been sixty-five child soldier releases over the
past month, the highest figure is quite some time,
according to Martin.

7. (SBU) Asked whether, in his view, NESOHR was an
LTTE front organization or a genuine human rights
group, Martin said it is somewhere in between.
Obviously, Father Karunaratnam, the head of
NESOHR, could not publicly challenge the LTTE on
human rights issues. But, behind the scenes he
has presented a number of cases to LTTE
intelligence about missing persons, etc., Martin
said, and has been trying to effect positive
change on human rights issues for years within the
"straitjacket" of having to live with the LTTE.
Martin said he had brokered a meeting between
Karunaratnam and Human Rights Commission head
Radhika Coomaraswamy during his visit and that it
had gone well. "They really hit it off." Martin
thought it would lead to quiet sharing of cases,
etc. between the two groups although no formal
link would or could occur.

8. (SBU) Martin said he would prepare a paper for
both sides after his visit, laying out possible
areas for progress on human rights issues but that
he did not have any expectation of movement in
light of the impending Presidential elections and
LTTE insistence that nothing was possible until
CFA talks were held. Martin said it is unlikely
he'll be back anytime soon.

No Cease-Fire Talks Either

9. (U) Retired Norwegian General and former head
of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission Trond
Furuhovde visited Sri Lanka at roughly the same
time specifically to see if he could make progress
on convening talks on better implementation of the
cease-fire agreement. (GSL and LTTE have agreed
in principle, but have been unable to agree on a
venue, with the Tigers insisting on a "neutral,"
i.e., outside of Sri Lanka, site.) Furuhovde
briefed Co-Chair Chiefs of Mission, including
Ambassador, on Oct. 18.

10. (SBU) Furuhovde said that he had come back to
Sri Lanka knowing there was little chance of
movement, because Norway wanted to "keep the
conversation going" and to fill the perceived gap
that nothing is happening on the peace process.
Furuhovde said that both sides stated their
interest in keeping the Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA)
going, and they both said they wanted to
strengthen it. GSL Peace Secretariat head
Jayantha Dhanapala said the GSL wanted to add some
type of enforcement or policing element to the
CFA, instead of the current system where all
responsibility lies with the two parties. The
LTTE's Tamilchelvan, by contrast, wanted to stick
to the current concept of self-enforcement. The
Tigers continued to insist on a "neutral" venue
outside of Sri Lanka for any talks, but anyway
were not prepared for any talks before the
November 17 Presidential election.

11. (SBU) Giving his more general impressions,
Furuhovde said that he believed that the LTTE
shock at the EU travel ban had now worn off, but
that the Tigers understood that the international
community was now watching them closely.
Furuhovde had the impression that the LTTE had
discussed the current situation in its Central
Committee and decided on a strategy. The first
point is that they would wait for the outcome of
the Presidential election before any major
decisions. The Tigers understand the differences
between Ranil and Mahinda, and have drawn up two
scenarios, depending on the election outcome.
Furuhovde noted that Prabhakaran's annual Heroes'
Day Speech will be delivered on Nov. 27, just ten
days after the election, and would no doubt give
an indication where the LTTE was heading.

12. (SBU) Furuhovde said the nature of the war had
changed, with both sides now engaged in what he
called a "subversive war." While the GSL was
using paramilitary groups such as the Karuna
faction, the LTTE was also using a type of
paramilitaries--lightly-trained irregulars, not
controlled by combat headquarters who would be
given a weapon and a specific task. The spate of
grenade attacks in Trincomalee (reftel) was a
perfect example of this type of action. Furuhovde
said the lack of clear control over these elements
was disturbing. He speculated that this type of
LTTE attack might soon spread from Trinco to

13. (SBU) COMMENT: We can draw several conclusions
from these discussions:
--Not surprisingly, there will be no breakthroughs
before the Presidential election.
--No matter who wins, restarting the negotiating
process will be difficult.

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