Search

 

Cablegate: Sri Lankan Army Holds Human Rights Seminar For

VZCZCXYZ0006
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLM #1618/01 3390231
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 050231Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7296
INFO RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 4162
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 1623
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 8160
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2481
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0701
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

UNCLAS COLOMBO 001618

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/INS AND DRL, USPACOM FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM MARR PTER PREL CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKAN ARMY HOLDS HUMAN RIGHTS SEMINAR FOR
FIELD COMMANDERS


1. Summary: The Sri Lankan Army organized on December 4-7 a
three-day seminar on "Human Rights, International
Humanitarian Law, Disaster Response and Military Civilian
Relations" for all of its battalion field commanders in the
northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka (where fighting is
heaviest). The training is being conducted by the
International Committee for the Red Cross, the Institute of
Human Rights (a reputable Sri Lankan NGO), and the Sri Lankan
Human Rights Commission. To open the seminar, Sri Lankan
Army Commander Fonseka told his commanders that the Sri
Lankan Army is committed to respecting human rights and that
commanders are accountable not only for their own actions,
but for those of all under their command. The Ambassador told
the audience that the hallmarks of a strong military and
healthy democracy are laws and institutions to investigate
and respond appropriately to violations of human rights and
international law. Embassy hopes that PACOM and the Embassy
can move ahead as quickly as possible to implement the
recommendations of the report prepared by Colonel
Ehrsam-Holland and her team from the Defense Institute of
International Legal Studies to enhance military justice
exchanges and training between the U.S. and Sri Lanka. End
Summary.

Fonseka: Commanders Are Accountable
------------------------------------

2. Ambassador attended as Chief Guest the opening ceremony
for the seminar on December 4, along with Sri Lankan Army
Commander Fonseka, Major General Peiris (who heads the Army's
legal affairs unit and is the most senior woman and Tamil in
the Armed Forces), and the heads of the ICRC, IHR and HRC.
In his remarks, General Fonseka told his officers that the
Sri Lankan Army is committed to respect the human rights and
fundamental freedoms of every citizen of Sri Lanka,
irrespective of ethnicity or religion. He told them it is the
responsibility of every member of the Sri Lankan Army to
guarantee the protection of every law abiding citizen of Sri
Lanka and ensure that no violation of fundamental rights
takes place.

3. Fonseka said the aim of this seminar is to educate
Battalion Commanders of their responsibility on international
humanitarian and human rights law and its applicability to
the on-going armed conflict to minimize such violations. The
General told his audience that "It is only through awareness,
training, and knowledge of law and discipline that we as a
professional Army could face the challenges ahead of us.
You have a duty towards the state in upholding the Government
policy of achieving lasting peace, which can only be achieved
by ensuring the protection of the human rights of every law
abiding citizen of Sri Lanka." He explained that the Sri
Lankan army has taken numerous steps, such as training of
trainers to educate cadres on IHL and HR, and the
establishment of human rights cells within the Army, to stop
human rights violations.

4. MGen Peiris explained that the Government recognized the
need for IHL and human rights awareness training and began in
1991 training programs. The Army established the Directorate
of IHL & HR in 1997. She estimated that 80 percent of the
Army now has a solid background in IHL and HR awareness.
Like General Fonseka, she reminded the commanders that "We
are duty bound to ensure that the protection of basic human
rights such as freedom from arbitrary arrest, torture and
inhumane and degrading treatments is afforded to each and
every law abiding citizen and resident in our country
irrespective of ethnicity or religion."

5. General Peiris candidly noted that in Sri Lanka the
application and voluntary compliance with the conventions and
principles governing IHL and HR among troops in the face of
terrorism and in the context of internal conflict is easier
said than done. However she stated her satisfaction that
even in the face of claymore mine attacks and suicide attacks
on troops as well as civilians, the Armed Forces have
exercised great restraint and have conducted themselves in a
professional manner with dignity and decorum expected of
professional soldiers.

U.S: Empower Institutions and Implement Laws
--------------------------------------------

6. The Ambassador in his remarks noted that the U.S. has
been a steadfast supporter of Sri Lanka's efforts to defend
itself against terrorism, but that experience around the
world has shown that terrorist insurgencies cannot be
defeated by military means alone. Effective
counter-terrorism requires economic development; a political
strategy that embraces democracy, freedom of speech and a
marketplace of ideas; political compromise to address the
aspirations of combatants so they will lay down their arms;
respect for human dignity and a rejection of an ideology of
hate that targets innocent civilians; and respect for human
rights. He explained that the hallmarks of a strong military
and healthy democracy are the implementation of laws and the
empowerment of institutions to investigate and respond
appropriately to violations of human rights and international
law. He also described the military justice exchange that
the US Pacific Command and the US Embassy have launched with
the Sri Lankan military to improve transparency,
accountability and human rights within the Sri Lankan
military. (Full text of remarks are on the Embassy website:
HTTP://colombo.usembassy.gov)

Comment and Action Request
--------------------------

7. This is the third seminar on IHL and HR that the Sri
Lankan Army has conducted. While the Sri Lankan military
continues to commit serious human rights abuses, it is
notable that Fonseka ordered all of his battalion commanders
who are engaged in active military operations in the northern
and eastern parts of Sri Lanka to attend this seminar. The
active participation of the ICRC and Institute of Human
Rights in the training is also a welcome sign. Embassy hopes
that PACOM and the Embassy can move ahead as quickly as
possible to implement the recommendations of the report
prepared by Colonel Ehrsam-Holland and her team from the
Defense Institute of International Legal Studies to enhance
military justice exchanges and training between the U.S. and
Sri Lanka.
BLAKE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

UN: As COVID Deaths Pass Two Million Worldwide, Guterres Warns Against Self-Defeating ‘Vaccinationalism'

With more than two million lives now lost worldwide to COVID-19, the UN Secretary-General appealed on Friday for countries to work together and help each other to end the pandemic and save lives. In a video statement , Secretary-General António Guterres ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Washington Riot And The Georgia Results

Hong Kong and Washington DC. On the same morning, the tyrants in power in Beijing and their counterpart in the White House have shown how they refuse to accept the legitimacy of any different points of view, and the prospect of losing power… More>>

UN: Violent Attempt At US Capitol To ‘overturn’ Election, Shocking And Incendiary

Unsplash/ElevenPhotographs The US Capitol building in Washington D.C. A group of independent UN rights experts released ... More>>

UN: Guterres To Seek Second Five-year Term
António Guterres will be seeking a second five-year term as UN Secretary-General, which would begin in January 2022.... More>>