Report on Mass Atrocities in Sri Lanka: U.S. State Department takes two steps back
Stephen Rapp, U.S. President Obama’s point man on war crimes does not believe that Sri Lanka’s Rajapaksa brothers have committed genocide and mass atrocities during the final stages of the Eelam War-4 which ended with the military defeat of the separatist Tamil Tigers and the removal of the outfit’s supreme leadership including its leader Prabhakaran.
Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs in the U.S. State Department Robert Blake is seriously reluctant to fill a report of alleged war crimes and mass atrocities of Sri Lanka with conflicting information and assessments because the material and data he has received so far are one-sided and if his office used such material/data to fill a report he, privately confesses, may not be able to maintain transparency and credibility of his office.
Nevertheless, both Mr. Rapp and Mr. Blake are unable to ignore the pressure exerted on their two offices by the most powerful Democratic senator in the U.S. Congress and his equally powerful influential senior aid, the chief of staff, to come out with a report with justification that Sri Lanka government military forces committed mass atrocities and genocide against the minority Tamil civilian population who were held hostage by the Tamil Tigers during the final months when it was clear of imminent defeat of the terrorist outfit.
Office of War Crime Issues is one of the offices of the U.S. State Department that reports directly to the Secretary of State. This office advises the Secretary of State directly and formulates U.S. policy responses to atrocities committed in areas of conflict and elsewhere throughout the world. This office coordinates U.S. Government support for war crimes accountability in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Iraq, and other regions where crimes have been committed against civilian populations on a massive scale. This office works closely with other governments, international institutions, and non-government organizations, and with the courts themselves, to see that international and domestic war crimes tribunals succeed in their efforts to bring those responsible for such crimes to justice.
The Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues heads this section. A range of diplomatic, legal, economic, military, and intelligence tools are available to this position to help secure peace and stability, ensure accountability, and build the rule of law in the world. Current Ambassador-at-large for war Crimes Issues is Stephen Rapp.
In 2005, Mr. Rapp became the Chief of Prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda located in Arusha, Tanzania investigating violations of international criminal law in Rwanda during 1994.
Rapp worked very closely with another United Nations prosecutor Shyamlal Rajapaksa, and it is this professional relationship that brought Rapp and Rajapaksa together for Rapp to discover that his younger partner is a nephew of three Rajapaksa brothers who are at the helm of Sri Lanka’s governance: One, the country’s popularly-elected president, next the nation’s defense secretary, and the other the president’s senior advisor and chief political strategist.
Ambassador Stephen Rapp’s close association with Shyamlal Rajapaksa, a very senior UN official who was serious about investigating and probing genocide and mass atrocities in Rwanda, that he got a glimpse of rest of the Rajapaksas’, a onetime human rights lawyer, the other a dedicated soldier who was serious about ending terrorism in his country, and the third committed to steer this South Asian nation on a strategic political path.
Shyamlal Rajapaksa had an untimely death in Tanzania last month where he was investigating the Rwanda atrocities for almost five years.
Stephen Rapp, little before that, was appointed the head of the Office of War Crimes Issues in the U.S. State Department.
It was this psyche that influenced Stephen Rapp to be skeptical when the influential chief of staff of Senator Patrick Leahy continuously exerted pressure on both Mr. Rapp and Mr. Blake to prepare a report that will bring Sri Lanka to the dock on mass atrocities, war crimes and genocide.
Rapp has expressed his opinion that he did not believe that the Rajapaksa brothers were psychologically or any other way bent on committing atrocities of the nature ‘certain interested groups’ have charged the Sri Lanka government, a source familiar with the conversation who preferred anonymity because of the sensitiveness of the issue told Asian Tribune.
The source further told Asian Tribune that he assessed the characters of the Rajapaksa brothers through his long association with his able partner young Shyamlal Rajapaksa.
The young Rwandan prosecutor Shyamlal Rajapaksa was the son of onetime cabinet minister of Sri Lanka George Rajapaksa the current Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s first cousin.
Tim Reiser, the influential chief of staff to Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, has been with the senator for two decades and has earned the lawmaker’s complete trust. Reiser is further influential because of the influential position Mr. Leahy holds in the U.S. Senate. Leahy is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations. Under the judiciary portfolio Leahy has his tentacles on defense spending and scrutiny of defense appropriations. As the subcommittee chairman he has the authority to scrutinize foreign assistance. In 2007 on the direction of Patrick Leahy the State Department Appropriation Act incorporated a clause suspending foreign military sales (FMS) and other military assistance to Sri Lanka when that country was in a middle of a war with separatist/terrorist LTTE. The same year using his authority as chairman of the foreign operations subcommittee Leahy took Sri Lanka out of the list of 16 recipients of the Millennium Challenge Grant Compact. Sri Lanka lost approximately US$200 million in development assistance. In both occasions, Leahy cited human rights violations for his recommendations.
The person at the bottom of these decisions was none other than his chief of staff Tim Reiser. It is not an unusual discovery that Mr. Reiser has been heavily influenced by the Tamil Tiger lobby in the U.S. He maintains a close rapport with five pro-LTTE organizations in the United States which are (1) Tamil Sangham (2) Tamils Against Genocide (3) Tamils For Justice (4) Tamils for Peace headed by Dr. Elias Jeyarajah, and (5) PERL. Ms. Tasa Manoranjan, the daughter of once head of the US Justice Department-proscribed Tamil Foundation in Maryland, is now a principal officer in the Peace for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PERL), an organization among others that met Robert Blake, Richard Boucher and others in the State Department several times this year to lobby against Sri Lanka.
Tim Reiser is also heavily influenced by a former Sri Lanka ambassador to Washington Devinda Subhasinghe who maintains close rapport with former Justice Department associate assistant attorney-general and now US Tamil Tiger ‘genocide’ attorney Bruce Fein. Asian Tribune leans that both Fein and Subhasinghe are living in the same neighborhood.
Further, five human rights organizations that have been under heavy influence by the U.S. pro-LTTE professional lobby are working with Tim Reiser to force the hand of Ambassador Stephen Rapp’s Office of War Crimes Issues and Robert Blake’s South and Central Asian Affairs Bureau to prepare a report accusing Sri Lanka of war crimes, mass atrocities and genocide to which both Rapp and Blake have so far resisted, according to the information obtained by Asian Tribune.
Asian Tribune sources say though Blake openly does not express that the unavailability of data has prevented his office and Stephen Rapp’s office to jointly compile a report nevertheless privately made known his sentiments.
The one-sided material that have been provided by the pro-Tiger professional activists, dissident Sri Lankan journalists and Jehan Perera-Pakyasothy Saravanamuttu duo (who were in the U.S. early September in the guise of attending a symposium) along with the lack of professionalism, resources and tools to the State Department and the State Department’s Colombo diplomatic mission’s failure to physically visit the so called Northern region of Sri Lanka where alleged atrocities occurred have prevented the Office of the Secretary of State to meet the deadline of September 21 to produce a report for the U.S. Congress as ‘directed’ by Senator Patrick Leahy’s chief of staff Tim Reiser.
Asian Tribune was unsuccessful to ascertain what role former defense analyst who wrote a weekly column to the Sunday Times of Sri Lanka Iqbal Athas now living outside Sri Lanka played in feeding U.S. officials on the subject.
The Asian Tribune’s experienced network of investigators may not find it difficult to track Iqbal Athas wherever he is.
According to Asian Tribune sources Reiser wouldn’t accept Robert Blake’s views discouraging the production of such a report with blatant twists to what happened at the last weeks’ of the Eelam 4 War. The just transferred deputy chief of staff at the American Embassy in Colombo Jim Moore too has expressed against producing a report with no credible investigation undertaken by the State Department to support a war crimes, mass atrocities and genocide allegations against the Sri Lanka government.
The production of the report has now been postponed to the end of October, Asian Tribune very reliably understands.
The Government of Sri Lanka has made strong diplomatic initiatives to convince the offices of Mr. Rapp and Mr. Blake of the seriousness of producing a report without substance to put Sri Lanka on the dock and give obnoxious twists to what took place during the last weeks’ of the Eelam 4 War that may lead to the possible disruption of diplomatic relations between the two countries, another source told Asian Tribune.
The government has reminded the U.S. authorities that the terrorist war Sri Lanka fought was in fact an extended (US) Global War on Terror and that U.S. needs to understand that Sri Lanka battled with the most ruthless terrorist group in the world as described by the FBI.
Sri Lanka through its diplomatic channels has reiterated that the steps that the United States took to designate LTTE as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), proscribing its social front organization the TRO, prosecuting US-based LTTE cadre for arms procurement and money laundering, helping Sri Lanka to have a better maritime surveillance to prevent LTTE arms smuggling, Sri Lanka allowing US military vessels to obtain port facilities in an effort to support US Global War on Terror, signing defense agreements to facilitate US counter-terrorism moves and other mutual support were all efforts by both nations to rid the world of terrorism.
Sri Lanka has further told the United States that it had no choice but to militarily combat the LTTE and it was the Tamil Tigers who took about 300,000 Tamil civilians as human shield to prevent the forward march of government military forces and that what the military undertook was a humanitarian operation to rescue the civilians with minimum casualties and simultaneously defeat the Tamil Tigers.
The point was made to officials of the State department that Sri Lanka never bombed from air that would have cost thousands of innocent civilian lives to hastily annihilate the LTTE.
The Afghanistan ambassador to the United States recently told an Asian Tribune source that the United States military in fact did air raids killing approximately 90 innocent Afghan civilians recently who were helping themselves to gasoline from stranded US military owned mobile fuel containers. The Afghan ambassador was telling the Asian Tribune source that the U.S. itself is engaged in atrocities of wider proportions but sits on judgment on the behavior of others.
Through several diplomatic channels Sri Lanka has clearly stated that it is at this time the United States needs to help Sri Lanka to rebuild the nation without harassing it that may possibly lead to the disruption of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
From many sources Asian Tribune learned how the obnoxious pro-LTTE lobby has mesmerized the Patrick Leahy Senate office, his chief staff Tim Reiser taking the lead, to get the U.S. Government to produce a document accusing Sri Lanka of mass atrocities, war crimes and genocide to embarrass this South Asian nation among the international community and sabotage the resuscitation of the war-ravaged economy.
With the ‘War crimes/Genocide Document’ the remnants of the LTTE in the United States and in other principal cities in western nations expect to clear the path to create a Kosovo situation to achieve ‘self determination’ of the Sri Lankan Tamil people meaning a separate independent state in Sri Lanka in the northern and eastern regions.
Robert Blake’s office has, to some extent, helped this process in maintaining a dialogue with the remnants of the LTTE who has openly said that what happened on May 18 this year was only a military defeat of the LTTE and that they will continue the struggle that was halted on that day meaning the fulfillment of Prabhakaran’s dream of creating a separate and independent state in the combined north and east of the country.
For that the remnants of the LTTE need an official US document to open that path to which Stephen Rapp and Robert Blake are reluctant to produce at this time because they feel that their credibility will sure be at stake if they did so.
But they cannot escape the Tiger-friendly Tim Reiser the influential chief of staff of Senator Patrick Leahy.
The December-2008 issued report of the Genocide Prevention Task Force co-authored by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former defense secretary William Cohen authoritatively advising what steps should be taken by the United State Government to prevent genocide, mass atrocities and war crimes warned that the State Department needs to develop resources and tools to monitor, assess and obtain credible information of occurrences of these crimes to produce reports. The Task force indicates that the State Department lacks capacity, resources and instruments to investigate, research and assess such atrocities.
Here is what the Task Force report, now before the Obama administration and Clinton’s State Department says how Washington is left to make judgments from ambiguous and frequently conflicting information and assessments:
(Begin Quote) While it is the responsibility of U.S. embassies and missions to know what is happening in their host country, the tendency has been to report on developments in the capital rather than more remote rural areas, if only because of resource constraints. This was reportedly the case with the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda in 1994, during the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the late 1990s, and with diplomatic reporting from Nairobi prior to the violence in Kenya in 2007-08. The State Department's transformational diplomacy initiative, still in its early stages, aims to relieve some of these problems by shifting U.S. diplomats to developing countries and encouraging them to travel beyond the capital city.
The availability of news reporting on even remote parts of the world has tempered the information problem significantly. Counterintuitively, how ever, the bounty of information-which can only be expected to grow in the future-does not necessarily ease the analytic challenge. First, the amount of material can be overwhelming, and second, it is hard to judge the accuracy of the reporting. For example, a crucial and difficult task for analysts is to distinguish systematic killing of civilians from more generalized background violence, as most if not all mass atrocities occur in the context of a larger conflict or a campaign of state repression. When our diplomatic and intelligence reporting from the post is inadequate, analysts in Washington are left to make judgments from ambiguous and frequently conflicting information and assessments.(End Quote)
Read the last three lines: When our diplomatic and intelligence reporting from the post is inadequate, analysts in Washington are left to make judgments from ambiguous and frequently conflicting information and assessments.
Both Blake and Rapp were not wrong when they took two steps back to postpone drafting a report toward the end of October (2009) as they were aware that they don’t have credible information to put Sri Lanka on the dock as pressured by the remaining Tamil Tigers in the United States who claim to represent the vast Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora whose main item in the agenda was the bifurcation of Sri Lanka - the dream Velupillai Prabhakaran failed to fulfill.
- Asian Tribune -