Author Topic: WikiLeaks: LTTE Stored Weapons At Hospitals – ICRC To US Mission To UN  (Read 1554 times)

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enrica

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WikiLeaks: LTTE Stored Weapons At Hospitals – ICRC To US Mission To UN

    By  The Nation
    Thursday, 07 November 2013 14:31

“On the LTTE, de Maio said that it had tried to keep civilians in the middle of a permanent state of violence. It saw the civilian population as a ‘protective asset’ and kept its fighters embedded amongst them. De Maio said that the LTTE commanders, objective was to keep the distinction between civilian and military assets blurred. They would often respond positively when ICRC complained to the LTTE about stationing weapons at a hospital, for example. The LTTE would move the assets away, but as they were constantly shifting these assets, they might just show up in another unacceptable place shortly thereafter.” the US Mission to UN informed Washington.

The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. The “Confidential” cable discuses what had happened on the ground during and since the conflict. The cable was written by the US Ambassador to Geneva Clint Williamson on July 15, 2009.

After a meeting with Jacque de Maio, ICRC Head of Operations for South Asia on July 9, 2009, the US ambassador Clint Williamson wrote; “De Maio said it would be hard to state that there was a systematic order to LTTE fighters to stick with civilians in order to draw fire. Civilians were indeed under ‘physical coercion not to go here or there,’ he said. Thus, the dynamics of the conflict were that civilians were present all the time. This makes it very difficult to determine though at what point such a situation becomes a case of ‘human shields.’
- See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/special/item/22495-wikileaks-ltte-stored-weapons-at-hospitals-%E2%80%93-icrc-to-us-mission-to-un.html#sthash.Wm9hwNTb.dpuf

http://www.nation.lk/edition/special/item/22495-wikileaks-ltte-stored-weapons-at-hospitals-%E2%80%93-icrc-to-us-mission-to-un.html

enrica

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Re: WikiLeaks: LTTE Stored Weapons At Hospitals – ICRC To US Mission To UN
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2013, 11:14:26 AM »
The actual full cable anyway shows the situation is way more complex than what the previous article reports:

Sri Lanka: S/wci Amb. Williamson's Geneva Meetings
OriginMission Geneva (United Nations)
Cable timeWed, 15 Jul 2009 09:23 UTC
ClassificationCONFIDENTIAL
Sourcehttp://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/07/09GENEVA584.html

C O N F I D E N T I A L GENEVA 000584
 
SIPDIS
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/15/2029
TAGS: CE MOPS PGOV PHUM PREF PREL
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: S/WCI AMB. WILLIAMSON'S GENEVA MEETINGS
 
Classified By: Peter F. Mulrean, RMA Counselor, Reasons 1.4 b and d.
 
-------
Summary
-------
 
¶1. (C) S/WCI Amb. Williamson met with representatives of
ICRC, OHCHR and UNHCR July 9 to discuss the recent conflict
in Sri Lanka in relation to a Congressional reporting
requirement in recent supplemental funding legislation.   His
interlocutors presented a complex picture of what had
happened on the ground during and since the conflict.  ICRC
stated that, while clear violations of International
Humanitarian Law (IHL) had occurred, Sri Lankan forces had
also made efforts to limit civilian casualties.  Likewise,
LTTE,s mixing with civilians was to be condemned, but it
remained difficult to define exactly when such mixing
constitutes the use of human shields.  ICRC was damning of
the GSL,s restrictions on humanitarian relief, which cost
countless lives for no apparent reason.  The GSL has asked
ICRC to wrap up its operations in Sri Lankan.  ICRC is
accommodating by shutting some sub-offices, but hopes to stay
on the ground, as it believes its conflict-related work is
far from done.  OHCHR sees the Congressional call for
reporting as positive high-level attention to credible
accusations of breaches of humanitarian and human rights law.
 It is calling for an international investigation of these
accusations, but is facing resistance from other UN agencies
that need the cooperation of the GSL to carry out activities
on the ground.  UNHCR is focused on the current situation in
the IDP camps, as well as the need to prepare for returns of
IDPs.  Conditions in the camps are improving, but remain
unacceptable.  UNHCR is concerned that the GSL could force
IDPs to return home or to other locations.  Its experience
two years ago with the GSL on the displacement and return of
200,000 people in the east was relatively positive, though
UNHCR believes the challenges of returning an even larger
group to the north will be much greater.  End summary.
 
-------------------------------------
Overview of Congressional Requirement
-------------------------------------
 
¶2. (SBU) S/WCI Amb. Clint Williamson met July 9 in separate
meetings with Jacque de Maio, ICRC Head of Operations for
South Asia, Kwang-wha Kang, UN Deputy High Commissioner for
Human Rights and Pascale Moreau, UNHCR Acting Director for
Asia.  He was accompanied by S/WCI Shaun Coughlin, RMA
Counselor and PSA Counselor.  In all the meetings, Amb.
Williamson outlined the Congressional language attached to
the recent supplemental funding legislation requiring the
Secretary to report back within 45 days on reports of war
crimes during the recent fighting in Sri Lanka, including to
the extent possible, identification of perpetrators of such
crimes.  Williamson noted that the USG had limited access to
the conflict zone and therefore it will be extremely
difficult to present conclusive evidence about exactly what
happened during the conflict, let alone who was responsible.
Therefore, the Department would have to rely in large part on
reports from open sources, NGOs, and International
Organizations that were on the ground or otherwise active on
Sri Lanka during the fighting.  Looking at the two sides in
the conflict (Sri Lankan military and the LTTE), Williamson
said that the most obvious areas of focus would be the
LTTE,s reported use of human shields and child labor, as
well as alleged executions of civilians attempting to flee
the conflict zone.  For the GSL, the focus would be on the
potential disproportionate use of force and reports of
disappearances of individuals during the screening of the
population in the north.
 
------------------------------------
ICRC - Violations of IHL, but in a Complex Environment
------------------------------------
 
¶3. (C) Jacques de Maio, ICRC,s Head of Operations for South
Asia, began by stating that, because of ICRC,s strict
confidentiality rules, he would be unable to share any
specific information regarding allegations of crimes by
either side, nor would he be able to direct Williamson to
sources.  That said, de Maio engaged in a lengthy discussion
of the conflict and offered a nuanced view of the complex
situation on the ground.  For example, he said that the Sri
Lankan military was somewhat responsive to accusations of
violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and was
open to adapting its actions to reduce casualties, but only
to the extent that this would not undermine its overriding
military objective - to destroy the LTTE.  The army was
determined not to let the LTTE escape from its shrinking
territory, even though this meant the civilians being kept
hostage by the LTTE were at increasing risk.  So, de Maio
said, while one could safely say that there were "serious,
widespread violations of IHL," by the Sri Lankan forces, it
did not amount  to genocide.  He could site  examples of
where the army had stopped shelling when ICRC informed them
it was killing civilians.  In fact, the army actually could
have won the military battle faster with higher civilian
casualties, yet chosen a slower approach which led to a
greater number of Sri Lankan military deaths.  He concluded
however, by asserting that the GSL failed to recognize its
obligation to protect civilians despite the approach leading
to higher military casualties.  From his standpoint, a
soldier at war should be more likely to die than a civilian.
 
¶4. (C) De Maio was more critical of the GSL,s restrictions
on humanitarian access and relief during the conflict.  There
was no good reason not to let certain types of materials,
such as blood bags, be delivered to Vanni during the
conflict, where ICRC was treating victims.  He had stopped
counting the number of children who died because no blood was
available, for example.  Regarding disappearances, he said
that there has been a long tradition of arrests and
disappearances in Sri Lanka by people in civilian clothing.
While ICRC has knowledge about a certain number of cases,
most appear to be people abducted/arrested by either Tamil
auxiliary forces or local authorities, not under order from
central authorities, but connected to local political
circumstances.  On the other hand, there appears to have been
no pattern of systematic disappearances during the GSL,s
screening of the population that fled the fighting.  De Maio
explained that ICRC has a fairly good network of people to
whom family members report arrests/disappearances.  In the
cases of those who seem to disappear during screening, most
of them turn up within days, and were three to five times
more likely to be found if they received a report within
twenty-four hours of disappearance.  He believed that many
incidents were driven by the GSL view that all civilians
coming out of the Vanni were presumed guilty by the
government.  ICRC has been visiting regularly 11,400 people
arrested and interned in 10 camps as suspected LTTE fighters.
 
¶5. (C) On the LTTE, de Maio said that it had tried to keep
civilians in the middle of a permanent state of violence.  It
saw the civilian population as a "protective asset" and kept
its fighters embedded amongst them.  De Maio said that the
LTTE commanders, objective was to keep the distinction
between civilian and military assets blurred.  They would
often respond positively when ICRC complained to the LTTE
about stationing weapons at a hospital, for example.  The
LTTE would move the assets away, but as they were constantly
shifting these assets, they might just show up in another
unacceptable place shortly thereafter.  De Maio said it would
be hard to state that there was a systematic order to LTTE
fighters to stick with civilians in order to draw fire.
Civilians were indeed under "physical coercion not to go here
or there," he said.  Thus, the dynamics of the conflict were
that civilians were present all the time.  This makes it very
difficult to determine though at what point such a situation
becomes a case of "human shields."
 
¶6. (C) Finally, de Maio said that ICRC had received a pretty
straightforward message from DefMin Gotabaya Rajapaksa that
it was time for ICRC to wrap up its operations in Sri Lanka.
ICRC is a conflict organization according to Rajapaksa, and
now that the conflict is over Sri Lanka sees ICRC as "a stain
on the white page of the post-conflict period."  De Maio said
others in the GSL have suggested that if ICRC leaves and then
comes back as part of a post-conflict approach under a new
memorandum of understanding, this might be acceptable.  De
Maio stated that ICRC is trying to sound accommodating and
will pull out of its three eastern sub-offices, where its
work was mostly done.  ICRC does not want to close up shop
completely, however, so it is telling the GSL it will scale
back in the hope it will be allowed to stay, as it sees many
elements of its core conflict mandate still at play,
including war wounded, IDPs, family tracing and detainees.
De Maio asked the USG to consider weighing in on ICRC,s
behalf, letting the GSL know that how this plays out will be
a factor in the US approach to a post-conflict Sri Lanka.
Amb. Williamson promised to raise this with A/S Blake upon
his return to Washington.
 
--------------------------------------
OHCRC - Strong Support, but no Details
--------------------------------------
 
¶7. (C) Kyung-wha Kang, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human
Rights strongly supported the Congressional request for
reporting on Sri Lanka, seeing it as a sign of high-level
attention to these issues.  She noted that High Commissioner
Pillay has publicly called for an international investigation
of what seem like credible accusations of violations of
humanitarian and human rights law.  Within the UN system,
Kang said that Pillay has faced serious opposition to this
approach.  Other UN agencies see the need to get things done
on the ground (e.g. humanitarian and recovery assistance) as
the priority and fear that Pillay,s approach will make the
GSL reticent to cooperate.  Kang lamented that the GSL has
"an absolute deaf ear," on questions of human rights,
particularly when it comes to any international dimension.
 
¶8. (C) Kang said that the Office of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights (OHCHR) would be unlikely to be able to help in
sharing any information with Amb. Williamson.  There is one
OHCHR rep in Colombo who is in a very difficult situation and
is restricted in her maneuvering room.  Kang said that OHCHR
is overwhelmed with information sent in from various interest
groups, but their veracity was very hard to judge.  She
thought that over time, ground-level testimony would emerge
and would be the key to determining what had really happened.
 Williamson asked that OHCRC share whatever information it
could and Kang promised to look into what might be possible.
 
-----------------------------------
UNHCR - Focus on Relief and Returns
-----------------------------------
 
¶9. (C) Pascale Moreau, UNHCR,s Acting Director for Asia,
stressed that UNHCR had no one on the ground in the areas of
conflict and has not been allowed full access to interview
IDPs, so it has no primary source information on what
happened during the conflict.  Her discussion with Amb.
Williamson focused more on the current status of IDP camps
and the expectations for the return home or relocation of the
civilians there.  On screening, Moreau said that UNHCR had
recently gotten access to the Omanthai crossing point, where
it was allowed to oversee the general process, but did not
have direct access to the individuals.  Moreau stated that it
was not easy to draw any conclusions, positive or negative,
about Omanthai in terms of disappearances, but she stressed
that this was somewhat academic in any case.  Most of the
IDPs have already been screened at Kilinochi, where there is
no international oversight, before moving on to Omanthai.
Two key humanitarian concerns for both the screening centers
and the IDP camps was the extensive problem of family
separation, including large numbers of children, and reports
of sexual and gender-based violence.  She suggested that Amb.
Williamson speak with UNICEF, which has been looking into the
plight of these children.  On violence against women, Moreau
indicated that in part this stemmed from the high incidence
of separated females or female-headed households among IDPs.
 When asked why the GSL was not pursuing family reunification
more vigorously, Moreau stated that it is not the GSL,s
highest priority just after the conflict and that such an
effort is logistically very difficult.  Two other key areas
of concern are pushing the GSL to decongest camps and making
an internal UNHCR decision on how best to balance providing
for the living needs of IDPs in terms of housing and
sanitation while simultaneously not enabling the GSL to
create permanent camps.
 
¶10. (C) Moreau reported that the GSL was removing suspected
LTTE fighters from the IDP camps and interning them in 10
different locations.  She noted that removing suspected
fighters from camps is common and even welcome, as long as
the authorities follow national law in providing those
arrested with adequate protections, which in the case of Sri
Lanka law is fairly robust.  Unfortunately, Moreau said that
the law was not being respected.  9,400 individuals had been
taken from IDP camps to 10 internment centers in Vanuviya,
including at least one exclusively for children suspected of
being child soldiers.  (Comment: These are the same 10 camps
mentioned by ICRC.  The discrepancy in the number of IDPs
comes from the approximately 2,000 detainees who were not
taken from IDP camps.  End comment.)
 
¶11. (C) As to the overall situation in the camps, Moreau said
that conditions were improving, though still unacceptable.
In Manik Farms, the military had been removed to the
perimeter and some were replaced by local police, which was a
positive step that still needed to be improved upon.  6,400
IDPs have been released from camps and another 9,000 have
been cleared, but shelter and assistance needs to be found
for them, as they cannot yet go home.  Her biggest concerns
on the horizon were information for the IDPs and the
possibility of forced returns.  On information, she said the
IDPs, greatest anguish comes from not knowing the fate of
family and loved ones and not knowing what lies in their
future.  The GSL needs to make a greater effort to treat the
IDPs like participants in the process.  On forced returns,
she said that there have been some cases that UNHCR has
protested to the GSL, but for now there has been no
systematic policy of forcing people to move.  Moreau
concluded that, in the past, the Ministry of Human Rights
Displacement had been a positive player in resisting forced
returns.
 
¶12. (C) Moreau reviewed the fairly positive experience two
years ago when 200,000 people were displaced and then
returned to the east.  She said that the GSL had done a
pretty good job in cleaning up the areas of conflict
(including de-mining), putting local administration in place
and getting some infrastructure and other recovery projects
off the ground.  This gave the GSL a good model to use,
though Moreau expected that the challenges in the north would
be even greater, and thus far the GSL,s approach had been
less accommodating.  There were also reports that mining was
much more extensive and the administrative and infrastructure
needs (including schools and hospitals) were much greater in
the north.  Finally, she noted that it is not yet clear
whether the international humanitarian agencies will be asked
to play any role in the return of IDPs.  She stressed that
the GSL wanted to maintain complete control of the process,
both for security reasons, but also out of a sense of pride
and desire to take care of its problems on its own.
¶13. (U) Ambassador Williamson has cleared this cable.
GRIFFITHS
***

Source/Full cable: http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/07/09GENEVA584.html