The United States on Thursday said that although the recently passed resolution on Sri Lanka at the Geneva session wanted to investigate incidents between 2002 and 2009, ‘an independent and credible investigation into all actions, by all parties, for the entire period of the conflict would be good for Sri Lanka’.
“There have been many questions about why the time frame of the investigation was limited to this period. It is not because the international community only cares about what happened between 2002 and 2009. In fact, an independent and credible investigation into all actions, by all parties, for the entire period of the conflict would be good for Sri Lanka, US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Michele J. Sison said addressing to the Foreign Correspondents Association in Colombo.
Ambassador Sison’s Remarks to the Foreign Correspondents Association April 3, 2014
Thank you for inviting me to speak tonight. Last year, you also invited me to speak in early April, and I described the long relationship between the United States and the people of Sri Lanka, as well as the broad spectrum of activities and engagements that characterize our relationship. None of that has changed.
I also spoke to you last April about U.S. concerns regarding the lack of reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka, ongoing human rights issues in the north and east, and attacks against journalists and religious minorities.
Unfortunately, those concerns also remain unchanged.
The United States remains firmly committed to working with the people of Sri Lanka to build a future in which all of Sri Lanka’s citizens can achieve their aspirations. At the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the international community addressed urgent human rights issues throughout the world.
The United States successfully led two resolutions at this session: one that renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, and another focusing on justice and accountability for human rights abuses and violations in Sri Lanka while promoting reconciliation, democratic governance, and respect for human rights.
For a third consecutive year, the UN Human Rights Council, by a wide margin, has strongly urged the Government of Sri Lanka to address these issues. This year’s resolution enjoyed the support of a core group of member states, and was co-sponsored by 42 states. For the first time, the resolution requests a comprehensive investigation, to be undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes committed in Sri Lanka, by both sides, during the 2002-2009 period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report.
In addition, it requests that the OHCHR monitor, assess, and report on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, including any relevant domestic processes dealing with reconciliation and accountability.
We encourage the Government of Sri Lanka to take heed, to fulfill its own obligations to its people, and to take meaningful, concrete steps on reconciliation and accountability. This reflects genuine concern on the part of the United States for all communities in Sri Lanka. We also encourage the Government to cooperate fully with UN mechanisms.
To those who have accused the U.S. over the past few months of “targeting” Sri Lanka, I want to point out that this was only one of numerous multilateral responses at the UN Human Rights Council to the human rights situation in a particular country.
At this session alone, one of three annual sessions, the UNHRC took action on human rights in Iran, Syria, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Burma, Libya, Mali, Guinea, Haiti, and South Sudan. The United States also led 41 states in expressing concern at the situation in Ukraine, and we joined a cross-regional statement on Egypt.
As we do at every UNHRC session, the United States expressed concern about human rights issues all over the world, including Venezuela, China, and Cuba. I have also heard the claim that the resolution sparks division in the country. Sadly, those divisions existed long before any UN resolutions. But I do want to point out that the resolution passed last week also reaffirms a commitment to the unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.
There has been criticism that this resolution is somehow “against’ (quote/unquote) the Sri Lankan people. It most certainly is not.
As Secretary of State John Kerry noted, this resolution supports the Sri Lankan people, in recognition of the resilience they have shown after years of war and their yearning for democracy and prosperity. As Secretary Kerry also said, “the time to pursue lasting peace and prosperity is now; justice and accountability cannot wait.”
The resolution represents the international community’s unwavering support to help prevent a return to violence and to ensure a secure, unified, and prosperous Sri Lanka for the future. Our ultimate goals are ones shared by friends of Sri Lanka: stability and long-lasting peace on the island. These are also goals shared by Sri Lankan citizens across all communities.
The end of the conflict presented an unprecedented opportunity to move past the divisions that have existed in this country for far too long, and to bring people together to heal the wounds of war.
As a friend of Sri Lanka, the United States does not want the story of Sri Lanka to be a story of missed opportunities.
I think few will disagree with a goal as simple and as important as that. The question, however, is how to achieve it?
The resolution asks the High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake a comprehensive investigation into allegations of serious violations of human rights by both parties – I emphasize, both parties – during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
There have been many questions about why the time frame of the investigation was limited to this period.
It is not because the international community only cares about what happened between 2002 and 2009. In fact, an independent and credible investigation into all actions, by all parties, for the entire period of the conflict would be good for Sri Lanka.
This resolution, and its call for an independent international investigation, does not in any way preclude – and is, in fact, meant to support – a genuine, credible, and transparent domestic process.
Indeed, the High Commissioner’s investigation can and should support the government’s own efforts to fulfil the recommendations of the LLRC.
The resolution also calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfil its public commitments, including on the devolution of political authority, which is integral to reconciliation and the full enjoyment of human rights by all members of its population.
Sri Lanka has a long history of international engagement, and has been a member of the United Nations since 1955. The broad support for the resolution passed last week at the Human Rights Council in Geneva is an indicator of concern for Sri Lanka’s people that cuts across the geographic regions.
In fact, one might ask why countries as diverse as Argentina, Macedonia, and Sierra Leone – three nations in three different regions of the world with very different histories and heritages – all supported the Sri Lanka resolution?
The answer is simple: all three countries have wrestled in very real terms with the legacies of conflict. All three have seen the devastating effects such conflict can bring. All three strongly voiced what steps must be taken to heal societal wounds, as did a number of nations that supported the Sri Lanka resolution during their explanation of vote commentary last week in Geneva.
The resolution, of course, is not just about what happened during the conflict. The resolution also urges the Government of Sri Lanka to investigate all alleged attacks on journalists, human rights defenders, members of religious minority groups and other members of civil society, as well as on temples, mosques and churches. Additionally, we echo the High Commissioner’s concerns regarding the increase of sexual harassment and violence against women in the former conflict zones.
The resolution urges the Government to hold perpetrators of such attacks to account and to take steps to prevent such attacks in the future.
Impunity is contagious, and there has been an alarming surge in attacks against members of religious minorities in Sri Lanka.
For example, an incident which occurred on March 9 at the Good News Church in Mahiyangana in Badulla District is similar to dozens of others that have been reported by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka.
While services were in progress, a mob gathered outside the pastor’s premises and began interrogating him. Although the police were alerted, officers arrived at the scene only after the pastor had been physically assaulted and the mob had dispersed.
And just last week we heard reports that on March 26, two petrol bombs were thrown at the Dambulla mosque by unknown persons. Although the police took statements, no one has been arrested in connection with the attack.
These events in Badulla and Dambulla are just the latest in an alarming string of incidents throughout the country in which perpetrators are not brought to justice.
The UNHRC resolution expresses the international community’s concern about the rise in these attacks against religious minorities, as I have mentioned, and urges the Government to hold perpetrators of such attacks to account and to take steps to prevent such attacks in the future.
I also note our serious concern about reprisals against those who meet with visiting diplomats and UN officials, or those who traveled to Geneva to meet with various delegations during the month of March.
It is disturbing to see this targeting of human rights defenders who have devoted their careers and lives to promoting and defending the rights of their fellow Sri Lankan citizens. We were concerned to learn that last weekend, an NGO program organized for journalists in Polonnaruwa on “Using Media as a Tool for Addressing Issues of Inequality” -- a reconciliation theme -- was shut down due to threats.
The harassment of those who support the quest for reconciliation, justice, accountability, and respect for human rights and democratic governance sends a chilling effect across Sri Lanka’s vibrant civil society, and undermines Sri Lanka’s proud democratic traditions.
Even as there were discussions in Geneva about the need to protect human rights defenders, two human rights defenders were detained under the anti-terrorism law and questioned for over two days before being released.
The Sri Lankan government has responded that some of these actions are in response to a resurgence of terrorism.
No one is saying that a government does not have the responsibility to combat terrorism to protect its citizens.
In fact, the U.S. helped the government and people of Sri Lanka in every way we could to try to end the LTTE’s reign of terror, which included brutal LTTE suicide bombings and assassinations.
The United States was at the forefront in formally designating the LTTE a terrorist organization; this designation played a key role in helping dry up the LTTE’s overseas support networks.
The LTTE remains on the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization list to this day. Just last week, a federal court in Brooklyn prosecuted an individual for supporting the LTTE, and he was sentenced to prison.
We know that families and communities all over Sri Lanka suffered terribly during these many long years of violence.
We have been a longtime friend of the Sri Lankan people, in good times and in bad. We know the challenge of maintaining national security against the threat of terrorism. The United States, too, has faced terrorism, and we know how it can tear at the fabric of state and society.
An equally important challenge, however – one which bears on our very identity as a nation – is to protect and maintain our core principles of democracy and rule of law during difficult times.
Reconciliation is a lengthy process; it must be started in earnest as soon as possible. We try at the U.S. Embassy to play a helpful role in reconciliation.
We are supporting a number of Sri Lankan civil society efforts in this regard. Not all such work needs to happen around a conference table, however.
For example, I’ll be traveling later this week to Kandy to host our first U.S. Ambassador’s Cup Cricket Tournament, bringing the American Corner Youth Group from Jaffna to play with the American Corner Youth Group from Kandy.
These goodwill efforts to promote mutual understanding among youth are important, we believe.
As I’ve noted, we have strong, important, and long-standing ties between our two countries. The United States upholds its commitment to the people of Sri Lanka through a broad relationship that extends to economic development, education, access to justice, and other activities island-wide.
Since Sri Lanka’s independence, we have worked through USAID to provide over 2 billion dollars in assistance.
Today, USAID livelihoods projects are creating thousands of jobs. They are focused on especially vulnerable populations, in particular those households headed by women. In addition, our USAID economic growth projects are helping provide the groundwork for sustainable economic development.
The U.S. and Sri Lanka are strong trading partners, and signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, a “TIFA,” in 2002.
Now in its 12th year, the TIFA talks continue to be an important forum for bilateral trade and investment discussions.
We engage in the “TIFA Talks” to expand market access, increase trade promotion efforts, protect intellectual property rights, address sector-specific challenges, and expand technical cooperation between Sri Lanka and the United States.
Meanwhile, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, an independent U.S. government agency, is working with investors to expand its activities in Sri Lanka and has a team visiting Colombo this week.
You may also have seen that last month we helped facilitate the launch of the All World Network’s “Sri Lanka 25,” which will encourage growth by highlighting Sri Lanka’s most innovative entrepreneurs and companies.
We believe that creating economic opportunity must go hand in hand with political reconciliation.
In terms of military to military engagement, the U.S. maintains maritime security, peacekeeping training, disaster response, and educational support programs. All dialogue on these issues includes a focus on human rights and rule of law aspects, as well. We also continue to be the largest supporter of humanitarian demining.
On the education front, we have American scholars and teaching fellows at the Universities of Peradeniya, Jaffna, and Kelaniya.
We are teaching English to secondary school students all over the country: in Kandy, Polonnaruwa, Matara, Tissamaharama, Tangalle, Mullataivu, Killinocchchi, Mannar, Beruwela, Mathugama, Negombo, and Batticaloa.
We have also established and expanded youth clubs to foster leadership and life skills for the next generation and will be bringing U.S. basketball players to coach in both Colombo and Matara later this month.
Through USAID, we support the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and the Legal Aid Commission to help ensure all Sri Lankans have access to justice.
There is so much more in terms of engagement. Just last month, the U.S. Forest Service visited Sri Lanka to discuss areas for future collaboration with local stakeholders.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of U.S. activities in Sri Lanka, rather, it is meant to illustrate the active outreach of the U.S. Mission to Sri Lankans all across the island.
This U.S. outreach to and engagement with the Sri Lankan people goes on each week, each month.
The U.S. and Sri Lanka have a longstanding partnership dating back to this country’s independence. This friendship is based on our shared democratic traditions and strong economic and cultural ties.
The U.S. and all others who supported the Sri Lanka resolution at the UN Human Rights Council sent a clear message that the international community is committed to working with the Government of Sri Lanka to promote greater peace, stability, and prosperity for all citizens of Sri Lanka.
Thank you, and I would welcome the chance to answer any questions you might have for me.
nicky karunarathna Saturday, 05 April 2014 04:24 AM
First thing is first. It should be US, UK and its allies war crimes, crimes against humanity and human right violations from the period of dropping of nuclear bombs to Japan to date issues please.
Nims Friday, 04 April 2014 10:56 AM
Now Sri Lankan other times Elamists. read others feedback and ask yourself whether they are correct or wrong
Nims Friday, 04 April 2014 10:57 AM
That is place the US tested latest weapons including the newly developed cluster bomb
jim pappa Saturday, 05 April 2014 04:25 AM
Buddhadasa, may I add two of the most conspicuous, out of the gamut of HR violations by the big bully. 1. Guantanamo, where so called ' enemies of the state' are imprisoned without trial and subjected to torture such as ' water boarding'. 2. Deporting of inhabitants of Diego Garcia to Mauritius, without their consent and without compensation, with the connivance of UK.
S de Silva Friday, 04 April 2014 11:00 AM
Madam, thank you for waking up at the last minnute to realise the truth!!
Minister Friday, 04 April 2014 11:04 AM
Why not include US and British atrocities committed against civilians in Iraq also? Physician, heal thyself first!
Kiri Gamarala Monday, 07 April 2014 06:32 AM
ipjaffna Friday, 04 April 2014 06:23 AM
Entire period investigation and have good plan for intire future
Suq Madique Friday, 04 April 2014 06:28 AM
India, Norway and other LTTE supporting countries will not like this as they will also be implicated...even the TNA will be found guilty.
ind Friday, 04 April 2014 06:33 AM
Better approach than the resolution recommends. Can we expand it to 1815. Then we can find more HR violations done by other parties as well !
jim pappa Saturday, 05 April 2014 04:43 AM
Come out with the real reason, Sison. Your Govt. need a war somewhere to test your weapons, and right now Sri Lanka is your best bet in the Asian region. Any conflict here would spill over to India as well, and I bet you'll make sure of that.
Nims Friday, 04 April 2014 09:26 PM
The US and the West are like shrimps. They have ONLY shit on their heads. That is why they cannot remember the War Crimes they committed in the past
Buddhadasa Friday, 04 April 2014 06:39 AM
This woman is a joke, she sticks her fingers into areas which does not concern her as a diplomat. I have to laugh when she says....‘an independent and credible investigation into all actions.......... What she needs is to do this in her own country which is plagued with problems. Rapes in the US Military, Gun violence, soldiers going berserk and killing fellow soldiers, in all US cities one cannot walk about, one gets shot or mugged, Gun murders highest in an civilized country over 14K per year murdered, no proper immigration policy most are still slaving in the agriculture and animal husbandry sectors, these are only a few of the problems in the USA and she has to gall to stay in our country and wants an independent investigation?
rosebud Friday, 04 April 2014 12:09 PM
So why don't you also say that the International Community cares about local politics = diaspora votes, campaign funds & global power games. I don't think anyone believes your c*** about the International Community caring about the Sri Lankan people. Unless they are gullible or have a vested interest. via DM Android App
aja Friday, 04 April 2014 06:40 AM
USA GET LOST
Lincoln Friday, 04 April 2014 06:42 AM
This US ambassador makes a mockery of diplomacy. The country she represents have the worst human rights abuses committed all over the world over the past 50 years. I am willing to challenge her on that.
DJ Friday, 04 April 2014 10:25 PM
Lincoln: "I am willing to challenge her on that" Yeah! she looks so terified about your chalange! LINCOLN! GRAB A LIFE!!!
dinesh Friday, 04 April 2014 06:43 AM
Need probe on below as well
1. Civilians killed in Afghanistan due to US Drone attacks 2. Civilians killed in Iraq due to forceful US involvement in to Iraq internal conflicts. 2. Forced expulsion of Chagossians by British to lease out Diego Garcia island to US military
Ramesh Friday, 04 April 2014 06:44 AM
Why not probe into total period from 1991 when USA blamed Iraq for Weapons of mass destruction and killed tens of thousands in Iraq and in the name of Bin Laden, again tens of thousands in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Jeezz Friday, 04 April 2014 12:14 PM
Now your whole plan is to get even with India for not voting for the resolution. "Do as we say or there'll be consequences". The foreign policy of the U.S.A is based on this though they go around lecturing about human rights. via DM Android App
chrisekan Saturday, 05 April 2014 04:41 AM
The heading should read "it will be good for the US", not Sri Lanka. This lady is just as good as Navi Pillay.
Therese Saturday, 05 April 2014 02:48 PM
Where is the american poodle CAMERON via DM iPad app
MRP Friday, 04 April 2014 07:04 AM
good work usa and uk considering specially on minorities Tamil, Muslim and Christians. We do not need dictatorships
ekanayake Friday, 04 April 2014 07:18 AM
Can you please investigate why did you send home land people away from Dieago Gracia by US?
ranjithsilva Saturday, 05 April 2014 12:09 AM
DEAR MADAM. WE SUGGEST THIS AT THE MEETING BUT NOW YOU HAVE TO TELL THIS TO YOUR PAY MASTERS AND NOT FOR US.
ind Friday, 04 April 2014 07:28 AM
Better to have independent inquiry into HR violation from WW II to upto date for the ENTIRE WORLD. Because HR is equal for everybody.
MrKasthuri Friday, 04 April 2014 07:36 AM
You are absolutely right, ..... good analysis, .... many more things could be included in this list .
Gobal Sunday, 06 April 2014 01:05 PM
if good govern no body intervene
Neely Friday, 04 April 2014 07:39 AM
We Srilankans are very good at blaming others for our own fault
mandy Friday, 04 April 2014 07:54 AM
anyone remember WMD? Weapons of Mass Distractions .. 1 Million killed, 500,000 permanently disabled, 5 million displaced this is only in Iraq. Thanks to great USA now its a killing field, humans die daily.. who is accountable?
ROBIN PERERA Saturday, 05 April 2014 01:09 AM
Who is this joker. She must look in the mirror and talk about all the human rights violations her country has committed for generations throughout the world.
No more bullying USA, we are Srilankans and will not move back and be dictated by any nation.
Sort your own problems and stop fingering with other countries.
We have a strong leader with a very strong military who we all respect and our grateful for the peace prevailing in our beautiful island, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.
God Bless Sri Lanka
Roadrunner Saturday, 05 April 2014 01:24 AM
you are the only correct thinker among this bunch of ummes.
demented lankan Friday, 04 April 2014 08:11 PM
what about human right violations in Palestine ? u would not dare to raise a voice against israel ? via DM Android App
sanjo Saturday, 05 April 2014 01:47 AM
Nihal, You got it wrong.What we say is that they don't have the right to say that to others!
Deen Friday, 04 April 2014 08:59 AM
Pillayan and Karuna will not agree for this proposal.
tomsamusa Sunday, 06 April 2014 04:40 PM
They have to first get out of the hiding in temple trees.
Nihal Friday, 04 April 2014 09:01 AM
All above writers are saying that US violate human rights so SL Gvt. also can do so. Is it all of you want to say?.
mack Friday, 04 April 2014 09:05 PM
can anyone tell what kind of investigation the government of SL has planned?who will be the person s who going to carry out the investigation 's? via DM Android App
Dayawathie Friday, 04 April 2014 09:02 AM
What about Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Veitnam, Iraq, Afgasnistan etc. Madam ?.
mack Friday, 04 April 2014 09:12 PM
thank you for your understanding towards minority issues faced here. via DM Android App
mack Saturday, 05 April 2014 08:32 AM
if they have committed war crimes is it okay for us to commit war crimes against our own fellow citizens via DM Android App
P Karunathilaka Friday, 04 April 2014 09:45 AM
Every Tom, Dick and Harry are very kind to show us what is good for us.
Suq Madique Friday, 04 April 2014 09:53 AM
So typical of the US to look for skeletons in our closets when their backyards are bloody cemeteries.
Shane Friday, 04 April 2014 05:43 PM
Did you live in queens or south side with immigrants? riding taxi, selling food on street.
Shane Friday, 04 April 2014 05:48 PM
Hiroshima and Nagasaki? hahahaha, Have you taken any history class? Please do.
Why you guys blaming United States for your own mistake.
wkpindrajith Rodrigo Saturday, 05 April 2014 03:34 AM
YES WHO FORMED N MADE LTTE POSSIBLE N WHY ? TIRE BUISNESS N ALL MURDERING FROM 80'S TO 2009 WHY ? REGIME CHANGES N ALL SENANAYKA'S BANDARANAYAKA'S,JAYAWARDENA'S,.............WHON WHO YES !
Teacher Saturday, 05 April 2014 03:38 AM
Excuse me, Ms, Sisson, do you mean you are teaching American English to SL students? You better stop confusing the kids. No thank you, don't try to buy up SL with your so called USAID. We don't need it.YANKEE GO HOME!
Sam Saturday, 05 April 2014 03:56 AM
Are there any living eye witnesses for 1815 events?
Sam Saturday, 05 April 2014 04:00 AM
Sam Saturday, 05 April 2014 04:02 AM
Why bias Pillai!
CROW Friday, 04 April 2014 10:19 AM
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