British wartime dispatches not considered in preparation of UK human rights report

Ex-SLN Chief of Staff flays govt inaction



By Shamindra Ferdinando

The British Government this week acknowledged that wartime dispatches from its diplomatic mission in Colombo hadn’t been considered in the preparation of its Annual Human Rights Report 2017.

A British High Commission Spokesperson said that the Annual Human Rights Report published on 16 July covered incidents that took place between January and December 2017.

The Spokesperson called the annual report an important part of the UK’s commitment to monitoring and drawing attention to human rights abuses.

The official said so when The Island asked the BHC whether the UK considered its Colombo High Commission dispatches (January-May 2009) before issuing its latest human rights report that dealt with Sri Lanka (The first report since revelation of military dispatches in October 2017).

Joint Opposition spokesman, retired Navy Chief of Staff and ex-MP Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera yesterday told The Island that the UK certainly owed an explanation why unquestionable official documents that had been revealed late last year in the House of Commons couldn’t be considered if the British were genuinely interested in ascertaining the truth.

In its latest report, the UK categorized Sri Lanka as one of 30 ‘Human Rights Priority Countries’ (HRPCs); countries where the UK has serious human rights concerns and hopes to engage positively to develop human rights performance.

The report acknowledged that there has been limited progress in the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. Particular concerns highlighted include attacks on minority communities and the slow delivery of key human rights and reconciliation commitments.

Rear Admiral Weerasekera alleged that human rights and reconciliation commitments that Sri Lanka had been compelled to accept by way of Geneva Resolution 30/1 co-sponsored by treacherous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government in October 2015, was based on unsubstantiated allegations. Commenting on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) turning a blind eye to House of Commons revelations, the naval veteran said the Foreign Ministry should respond to the latest UK report.

Responding to another query, Rear Admiral Weerasekera alleged that probably British military dispatches had never been considered by the FCO before throwing its weight behind the US move against Sri Lanka.

Noting that former External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris had recently written to newly appointed British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt requesting that the Geneva Resolution be withdrawn, Rear Admiral Weerasekera said that the very basis for that resolution as well as Annual UK Human Rights Report 2017 had been challenged by their own reports.

Rear Admiral Weeraselera said that the British never referred to the Colombo dispatches until Conservative member Lord Naseby placed in the House of Commons heavily censored military dispatches obtained under the Right to Information Law with the help of Information Commissioner’s intervention.

The British High Commission in Colombo last November declared that Lord Naseby’s statement pertaining to accountability issues in Sri Lanka didn’t reflect UK’s stand.

The British HC said so in response to The Island query whether the BHC had discussions with the Foreign Ministry here or the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) as regards Lord Naseby’s call for reviewing Geneva Resolution 30/1.

Lord Naseby urged UK to take up Sri Lanka’s issue with Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The Conservative member called for amending the Resolution on the basis that 40,000 hadn’t been killed in the Vanni offensive and of the 7,000-8,000 killed, one fourth were LTTE cadres. Naseby also declared that the then government hadn’t deliberately targeted civilians.

Rear Admiral Weerasekera said that instead of requesting the UK to make available all available data pertaining to the ground situation available for scrutiny, the government was bending backwards to appease those propagating lies against war winning armed forces.

Weerasekera pointed out that the government had deliberately refrained from taking up House of Commons revelations with Geneva yet, nearly ten months after the partial exposure of military dispatches.


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