Twenty four US Congressmen have written US Secretary of State John F. Kerry telling him to make it clear to the Sri Lankan Government that additional US funding, trade and military-to-military incentives would depend on substantial and sustained implementation of the specifics in the joint US-SL resolution before the UNHRC. The letter from the Congressmen to Kerry adds that continued assistance in these areas would hinge on credible advances in the spheres of transitional justice, ending impunity with military and security sector reform, rule of law and addressing concerns of the Tamil people set forth in Resolution 30/1.
The tough letter from the powerful Congressmen comes on the heels of Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein’s oral report on Sri Lanka in Geneva today (29).
It added that ‘progress has been so slow and grudging and what were intended to be confidence-building measures have now become confidence-weakening factor.
They also brought to Kerry’s notice that there is increasing evidence that senior officials in the Sri Lanka Attorney General’s Department and in the Military have blocked important criminal investigations adding that the government must take steps to dismiss or discipline such obstructionists and remove policy-making roles officials undermining efforts to support justice and accountability.
The letter stated that there have been only ‘halting efforts’ in developing the four transitional justice mechanisms pledged by the SL Government to the UNHRC, namely a Truth Commission, Reparations and Missing Persons Office and an Independent Special Court for war crimes, with international participation.
The Congressmen have urged Kerry to remain engaged on the implementation of Resolution 30/1 and to make clear the UNHRC mandate to the Sri Lankan Government.
They urged Kerry to increase US public and private messages to Sri Lankan to encourage and press the Government of Sri Lanka to take the difficult steps required to honour its commitment to ensure peace and security for all the island’s communities.
A four-page letter signed by Congressmen Danny K. Davis, Steve Stivers, Richard E. Neal, Leonard Lance, Jan Schakowsky, Patrick J. Tiberi, William R. Keating, Daniel M. Donovan Jr. and 16 others reiterated that the US played a critical role in promoting the human rights accountability and reconciliation issues in Sri Lanka and bringing about a landmark resolution.
They said they anticipate the Human Rights Commissioner will acknowledge progress that has been made such as return of some land to civilians, drafting of a new Constitution and an ambitious reform agenda but will also observe that their progress in implementing the resolution has been slow and often grudging – and there are growing doubts about the government’s political will and ability to see the complex process through.
They urged the US to remain engaged on issues relating to transitional justice and accountability, meaningful consultation with the victims, Rule of Law, Witness and Victim Protection and other related legal reform, repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Public Security Ordinance, Security Sector reform, demilitarizing of the North and East, and ethnic issues and the legacy of the war.