Report on ‘Mass atrocities’ in Sri Lanka:
US State Department takes two steps back
Office of War Crime Issues is one of the offices of the US State
Department that reports directly to the Secretary of State. This office
advises the Secretary of State directly and formulates US policy
responses to atrocities committed in areas of conflict and elsewhere
throughout the world. This office co-ordinates US 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 organisations, 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
The Ambassador-at-large of 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, 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 Defence 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 one time 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
Shyamlal Rajapaksa had an untimely death in Tanzania 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 US State Department.
It was this psyche that influenced Stephen Rapp to be sceptical when
the influential chief of staff of Senator Patrick Leahy continuously
exerted pressure on both Rapp and 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 one time Cabinet Minister of Sri Lanka, George
Rajapaksa, the current Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s first
Time Reiser, the influential chief of staff of 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 US Senate.
Leahy is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the
Chairman of the US Senate Appropriations Sub-committee on Foreign
Operations. Under the judiciary portfolio Leahy has his tentacles on
defence spending and scrutiny of defence appropriations. As the
Sub-Committee 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
Sub-Committee 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. On 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 Reiser
has been heavily influenced by the Tamil Tiger lobby in the US. He
maintains a close rapport with five pro-LTTE organisations 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 organisation among others that met Robert Blake, Richard Boucher and
others in the State Department several times this year to lobby against
Tim Reiser is also heavily influenced by a former Sri Lanka
Ambassador to Washington Devinda Subasinghe who maintains close rapport
with former Justice Department associate Assistant Attorney-General and
now US Tamil Tiger `genocide’ Attorney Bruce Fein. Asian Tribune learns
that both Fein and Subasinghe are living in the same neighbourhood.
Further, five human rights organisations that have been under heavy
influence by the US 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
The one-sided material that have been provided by the pro-Tiger
professional activists, dissident Sri Lankan journalists and Jehan
Perera, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu duo (who were in the US early
September) 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 US Congress as ‘directed’ by Senator Patrick Leahy’s
chief of staff Tim Reiser.
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 Four 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
The production of the report has now been postponed, 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 Four War.
The Government has reminded the US authorities that the terrorist war
Sri Lanka fought was in fact an extended (US) Global War on Terror and
that US 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 organisation (FTO), proscribing its social front organisation
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 defence agreements to facilitate US counter-terrorism moves and
other mutual support were all efforts by both nations to rid the world
Sri Lanka has further told the United States that it has no choice,
but to militarily combat the LTTE and it was the Tigers who took about
300,000 Tamil civilians as a 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 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
US itself is engaged in atrocities of wider proportions, but sits on
judgement on the behaviour 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 build
From many sources Asian Tribune learned how the obnoxious pro-LTTE
lobby has mesmerised the Patrick Leahy Senate office, his chief staff
Tim Reiser taking the lead, to get the US Government to produce a
document accusing Sri Lanka of mass atrocities, war crime 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 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.
The remnants of the LTTE have 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 fulfilment
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
surely be at stake if they did so. But they cannot escape the
Tiger-friendly Tim Reiser the influential chief of staff of Senator
The December 2008 report of the Genocide Prevention Task Force
co-authored by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former
Defence 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
Here is what the Task Force report, now before the Obama
administration and Clinton’ State Department says how Washington is left
to make judgments from ambiguous and frequently conflicting information
and assessments: While it is the responsibility of US 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 US 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
US 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.
Counter intuitively, how ever, the bounty of information-which can
only be expected to grow in the future-does not necessarily ease the
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 judgements from
ambiguous and frequently conflicting information and assessments.
Read the last three lines: When our diplomatic and intelligence
reporting from the post is inadequate, analysts in Washington are left
to make judgements from ambiguous and frequently conflicting information
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 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 fulfil.
The above are excerpts of an article written by Daya Gamage to the