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War Crime Investigations of Visiting Rajapaksa Urged by US Journalists

US Government Spokesperson Philip Crowley:

We clearly believe that those who have violated international humanitarian law must be held accountable, and we believe that accountability for alleged crimes is an essential component of national reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

 

QUESTION: Have you sought – have you asked to meet with him?

MR. CROWLEY: We did not; nor did he ask to meet with us.

QUESTION: Well, okay, then can I ask why not ask to meet with him if you feel so strongly that his government should drop its opposition to UN involvement in this panel?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re going to wait and see how this process unfolds, and if it falls short, we will not hesitate to say so.

 

Philip J. Crowley

Assistant Secretary
US Daily Press Briefing

Washington, DC

January 21, 2011

 

 

Video (watch from 31:33 to 36:15 ):

http://www.state.gov/video/?videoid=757713385001

 

QUESTION: What’s your understanding of the visit of the – or what do you know about the visit to the United States of the president of Sri Lanka?

MR. CROWLEY: He is visiting the United States and it is a private visit.

QUESTION: Is he – does he have any – he has no plans to meet with any U.S. officials?

MR. CROWLEY: No.

QUESTION: I understand he might be in Texas and that Assistant Secretary Blake was there. There was some speculation that the two might meet.

MR. CROWLEY: There is no meeting that I’m aware of with the president during his visit. So I – yes, you’re right. I think Assistant Secretary Blake gave a speech at Rice University, but we specifically asked, and there’s no meeting between a U.S. Government official and President Rajapaksa.

QUESTION: Is the Sri Lankan foreign minister with him? And maybe you will meet him or the Secretary will.

MR. CROWLEY: Again, if I’m wrong, we’ll correct the record, but I’m not aware of any meetings associated with his visit.

QUESTION: There have been some calls for him to be investigated or to be looked into or even prosecuted. Is this something that you’re willing to look at?

MR. CROWLEY: Well – and in fact, we have made strong public statements and are supporting what Sri Lanka is doing. It’s a process that is still ongoing. We clearly believe that those who have violated international humanitarian law must be held accountable, and we believe that accountability for alleged crimes is an essential component of national reconciliation in Sri Lanka. There is a Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission that has been receiving testimony from hundreds of people. I think its mandate has been extended to June of this year, at which time it will make a report to President Rajapaksa. We would hope that Sri Lanka would continue this effort and take advantage of expertise that exists, for example, within the United Nations and the Secretary General’s Panel for Experts that has volunteered to provide assistance to Sri Lanka as it continues this effort.

QUESTION: Right, but the president and his government have refused the UN any (inaudible) as I understand it, correct?

MR. CROWLEY: I understand that. So we –

QUESTION: Well, so why wouldn’t this be an opportunity, if he’s in the United States, to meet with him –

MR. CROWLEY: We will – this is a process that is ongoing. We will continue to encourage Sri Lanka to have a full accounting of what happened at the end of the – during and at the end of this conflict. We think it’s very, very important to Sri Lanka’s future, and we will not hesitate to speak out as this process continues.

QUESTION: Right, well, if it is very, very important to Sri Lanka’s future and you support the UN role in this, why not take the opportunity of a visit of the president to meet with him and to reinforce that position, tell him face to face?

MR. CROWLEY: We’ve had no trouble communicating our views to the Government of Sri Lanka.

QUESTION: Well, how about this then? Have you –

MR. CROWLEY: I –

QUESTION: Have you sought – have you asked to meet with him?

MR. CROWLEY: We did not; nor did he ask to meet with us.

QUESTION: Well, okay, then can I ask why not ask to meet with him if you feel so strongly that his government should drop its opposition to UN involvement in this panel?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re going to wait and see how this process unfolds, and if it falls short, we will not hesitate to say so.

 (some distraction)

QUESTION: Could you do just one more on Mexico?

MR. CROWLEY: Hold on, hold on. Have we – Sri Lanka?

QUESTION: Yes, we have another one.

QUESTION: Your weekend is slipping away. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: It will be kickoff before you know it.

QUESTION: In the United Nations, Secretary General’s special envoy was in Sri Lanka investigating atrocities and human rights violations committed by this president and his government, and also other side, humanitarian issues. And they have – the UN had condemned all these issues as far as this president is concerned. What I’m following what Matt was saying, how come – you knew the president is coming to the U.S.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: I’m sure. So why he was here? I mean, I’m sure he is – must be –

MR. CROWLEY: Goyal. Goyal.

QUESTION: -- for him to come here.

MR. CROWLEY: It’s a private visit. Obviously, we’re aware of the visit. As to the reasons – where he’s going and why he’s here, we’ll defer to the Sri Lankan Government. I’m not aware of any contact with the president this week, but obviously we have our Embassy in Colombo and we continue to be engaged with the Sri Lankan Government on a range of issues.