1 December, 2020

Blog

WikiLeaks: US On Sri Lanka’s 2008 UPR Strategy At UN

By Colombo Telegraph

“Samarasinghe is an important interlocutor, especially in the conext of the Consultative Committee on Humanitaria Access (CCHA), which he chairs. Our recent intractions with him on human rights issues have beenless productive, with Samarasinghe often appearing to be engaged in simple damage control efforts. Defending Sri Lanka’s spotty human rights record is a difficult task, and Samarasinghe in this meeting appeared uncharacteristically nonplussed. The upcoming UPR will constitute a major opportunity for member states to question Sri Lanka on its failure to address human rights concerns. Samarasinghe is well aware of this and is seeking to use this to prod action on the Constitutional Council and perhaps other concerns.” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.

Sri Lanka’s Mahinda Samarasinghe before a special session of the Human Rights Council. Photo by Jean-Marc Ferre/United Nations

A classified diplomatic cable which details a meeting then US Ambassador to Colombo Robert Blake has had with Human Rights Minster Mahinda Samarasinghe on January 25, 2008 The Colombo Telegraph found the related cable from WikiLeaks database. The cable is classified as “Confidential” signed by Robert Blake on February 11, 2008.

Ambassador Blake wrote  “Ambassador met Human Rights Minster Mahinda Samarasinghe on January 25 to discuss a range of U.S. concerns about Sri Lanka’s human rights situation, including recent incidents. Samarasinghe explained Sri Lanka’s strategy for engagement with the UN Human Rights Council, emphasizing the GSL’s resistance to a separate office for the staff of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), but expressing willingness to accept technical assistance for Sri Lanka’s national Human Rights Commission. Samarasinghe made clear that Sri Lanka was opposed to discussing its human rights performance in a Special Session of the HRC, but was preparing its submission for the Universal Periodic review in mid-May. Samarasinghe appeared at times to be at a loss to account for discrepancies in government accounts of several human rights incidents and recent developments.”

“Minister Samarasinghe told Ambassador and Pol Chief on January 25 that the GSL was engaged in a full-press effort to prepare for the Universal Periodic review (UPR) of Sri Lanka in mid-May 2008. Samarasinghe said Sri Lanka welcomed the opportunity for a discussion of its human rights record “in a controlled atmosphere,” indicating that the GSL would resist any effort to place Sri Lanka on the agenda of a Special Session. Sri Lankan government entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Human Rights Commission were all working on Sri Lanka’s submission to the UPR, which would be due in March. Samarasinghe said he had exhorted his colleagues to try to make progress on the international community’s concerns between now and May, confiding that he would not be comfortable going into such a review based on the current state of play. ‘I told them they need to give me something to work with.'” Blake further wrote.

Related posts;

WikiLeaks: “I Haven’t Had An Easy Time With Rajapaksa Brothers” – Mahinda Samarasinghe

Read the cabale below for further details ; SRI LANKA: MINISTER’S STRATEGY FOR ENGAGEMENT WITH HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

VZCZCXRO4540
OO RUEHBI RUEHLMC
DE RUEHLM #0149/01 0420822
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 110822Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7677
INFO RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 0737
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 7726
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 5907
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 4256
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1834
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 4261
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 3357
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 8335
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 5826
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 0538
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 2615
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
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000149 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS AND DRL/NESCA 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2017
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL MOPS CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: MINISTER'S STRATEGY FOR ENGAGEMENT WITH
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL 

REF: A) GENEVA 107 B) GENEVA 108 C) 07 COLOMBO 959 

Classified By: CLASSIFED BY AMBASSADOR ROBERT O. BLAKE, JR. REASONS: 1.
4(b,d). 

1.  (C) SUMMARY:  Ambassador met Human Rights Minster Mahinda
Samarasinghe on January 25 to discuss a range of U.S.
concerns about Sri Lanka's human rights situation, including
recent incidents.  Samarasinghe explained Sri Lanka's
strategy for engagement with the UN Human Rights Council,
emphasizing the GSL's resistance  to a separate office for
the staff of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR),
but expressing willingness to accept technical assistance for
Sri Lanka's national Human Rights Commission.  Samarasinghe
made clear that Sri Lanka was opposed to discussing its human
rights performance in a Special Session of the HRC, but was
preparing its submission for the Universal Periodic review in
mid-May.  Samarasinghe appeared at times to be at a loss to
account for discrepancies in government accounts of several
human rights incidents and recent developments. End Summary. 

2.  (C) Minister Samarasinghe told Ambassador and Pol Chief
on January 25 that the GSL was engaged in a full-press effort
to prepare for the Universal Periodic review (UPR) of Sri
Lanka in mid-May 2008.  Samarasinghe said Sri Lanka welcomed
the opportunity for a discussion of its human rights record
"in a controlled atmosphere," indicating that the GSL would
resist any effort to place Sri Lanka on the agenda of a
Special Session.  Sri Lankan government entities such as the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General's Office,
and the Human Rights Commission were all working on Sri
Lanka's submission to the UPR, which would be due in March.
Samarasinghe said he had exhorted his colleagues to try to
make progress on the international community's concerns
between now and May, confiding that he would not be
comfortable going into such a review based on the current
state of play.  "I told them they need to give me something
to work with." 

3.  (C) Ambassador asked whether discussions with Louise
Arbour about an enhanced presence of the Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights in Sri Lanka had reached an
impasse, or were continuing.  Samarasinghe repeated that the
government would not entertain the idea of a separate status
for the OHCHR, but wanted to talk about the possibility of
technical assistance for the national Human Rights
Commission.  He noted that he and Arbour "have an excellent
relationship.  She says what she feels she has to say in
public, and I do the same." 

4.  (C) Ambassador reiterated that it was well within the
power of the security forces, who have an iron grip on the
Jaffna peninsula, to rein in the groups that are responsible
for extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and other serious
abuses.  Ambassador noted that the situation in Batticaloa
was starting to resemble that in Jaffna. 

5.  (C) Ambassador expressed grave concern over the situation
in the East, especially in Batticaloa, where armed groups are
preparing to contest local elections, and extrajudicial
killings are occurring at the rate of 1-2 per day.    He
urged the GSL to do more to assert control over law and
order, saying that the police were clearly unwilling to
confront the TMVP (Karuna/Pillaiyan faction).  Samarasinghe
expressed surprise, saying he would check with the Red Cross,
because he had not seen evidence of this in the numbers the
ICRC provides to the government. (Note: the ICRC has
confirmed to us privately the spike in killings in Batticaloa
- please strictly protect.) 

6.  (C) Ambassador noted that many of the problems Sri Lanka
continued to experience with human rights violations, the
lack of accountability and other governance and transparency 

COLOMBO 00000149  002 OF 002 

issues were traceable to the GSL's failure to appoint the
Constitutional Council in accordance with the 17th Amendment
to the Constitution (septel to follow).  Since the minority
parties had reached agreement on the composition of the
Committee, when would the President take action to appoint
it?  Samarasinghe said that the agreement of the JHU had only
been obtained in the last few days and the government was
waiting for the official communication.  He observed that "a
lot of the flak we are taking would come down" once the
Constitutional Council and the independent commissions it
appoints were in place.  He argued that the perception that
the president was deliberately hindering the formation of the
Constitutional Council "should not be so negative." 

7.  (C) Samarasinghe noted that the public inquiry phase had
started on the case of the five Tamil youths killed in
Trincomalee ("Trinco 5").  He expressed hope that progress
might also be made on the case of the 17 aid workers
massacred in Muttur: "If we can finish that, I'll be a lot
happier."  Ambassador said the U.S. and others would also
welcome progress in the high-profile cases within the CoI's
ambit and inquired about the status of witness protection
legislation.  Samarasinghe said that the proposal was still
with the legal draftsman in the Ministry of Justice, after
which the bill would go back to the Cabinet of Ministers for
approval. 

8.  (C)  Ambassador asked about the progress of the
investigation into the killing of Tamil opposition MP
Maheswaran on January 1 while worshiping in a Hindu Temple.
Samarasinghe pointed out that the President had announced
that the killer had confessed to being a member of the LTTE.
Ambassador asked about the relevance of a statement by GSL
defense spokesperson Rambukwella that the suspect had
previously been a member of the security detail of Social
Affairs Minister Douglas Devananda (also head of the
pro-government paramilitary group EPDP).  Samarasinghe could
offer no explanation. 

9.  (C) Ambassador then inquired about the recent release on
bail and dismissal of most charges against former Air Force
Group Captain Nishantha Gajanayake and others who had been
arrested for involvement in the abduction and murder of two
Sri Lankan Red Cross workers and other "disappearances,"
noting that a senior military official had appeared to post
bail for Gajanakaye.  Samarasinghe appeared deeply
embarrassed, only saying, "I don't know" and suggesting that
we ask the Attorney General about the status of the case. 

10.  (C) COMMENT: Samarasinghe is an important interlocutor,
especially in the conext of the Consultative Committee on
Humanitaria Access (CCHA), which he chairs.  Our recent
intractions with him on human rights issues have beenless
productive, with Samarasinghe often appearing to be engaged
in simple damage control efforts.  Defending Sri Lanka's
spotty human rights record is a difficult task, and
Samarasinghe in this meeting appeared uncharacteristically
nonplussed.  The upcoming UPR will constitute a major
opportunity for member states to question Sri Lanka on its
failure to address human rights concerns. Samarasinghe is
well aware of this and is seeking to use this to prod action
on the Constitutional Council and perhaps other concerns.
BLAKE
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Blake is like a school prinicipal, Gota and other “veerayas” seem to scumb to him…where are you sinhala buddhist nationlists look at your real “veerayas”…Also UN is a “controlled enviorment”, very easy to lie, so it UNHRC or the Periodic Review is not imporatnt like I thought, what is important is what happens after that..

  • 0
    0

    The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a well-thought innovation of the human rights council. It ensures the steps taken by all states to promote human rights and encounter challenges. It can only achieve its goal of improvement of the human rights situation in every country if it treats all members equal and help them overcome challenges.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.