By Matthew Russell Lee
WASHINGTON DC, April 14 — On Sri Lanka, the Obama administration would like the Mahinda Rajapaksa government to “use” the Panel of Experts report on presumptive war crimes in the final stages of the conflict, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told Inner City Press on Thursday.
Toner said the US has “encouraged the Sri Lankan government to engage in a process of accountability” and to “use the Panel of Experts and its expertise to address that.” Video Here
Two days ago, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave the long delayed reported to the Rajapaksa government while not releasing it to the public. Despite Ban’s repeated claims that his Panel could travel to Sri Lanka, it never did.
Instead a meeting — which the UN denied and / or concealed — was held at the UN in New York between Sri Lanka’s Attorney General Mohan Peiris, the Panel’s three members and Ban’s top political adviser, former US State Department official B. Lynn Pascoe.
According to the Sri Lankans, it was Pascoe that urged and agreed that the meeting should be secret. So a former US State Department official is engaging in secret negotiations with a government accused of war crimes, while the US and UN both preach transparency.
Then again, asked about Pakistan at the briefing, Toner said “I don’t discuss drone strikes.” Some things, it seems, are simply not discussed. But why should war crimes in Sri Lanka be one of them?
Toner also answered an Inner City Press questions on Sudan, and took ICP questions on Cote d’Ivoire and visas, on which we will be reporting shortly.
From the US State Department transcript, video here:
Inner City Press: A question on Sri Lanka. There’s this report that was commissioned by the UN about war crimes, I think, final stage of the conflict. It’s been shown to the Government of Sri Lanka but still hasn’t been given to the public? Does the U.S. have any – one, does it think it should be made public? And what steps does it think should be taken? Does it think that the internal —
MR. TONER: This is the UN Panel of Experts report?
Inner City Press: That’s correct. Yep.
MR. TONER: Yeah. I can get you more detail on that, but we, obviously, have encouraged the Sri Lankan Government to engage in a process of accountability and to also use this panel of experts and their expertise, obviously, to address some of the questions.
Inner City Press: The government’s already kind of condemned the Panel, and I wonder whether the U.S. thinks this Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission that the government set up itself – was that sufficient? Or are you looking for more –
MR. TONER: And again, I think that we believe that the Lessons Learnt commission and Reconciliation commission were good steps. But we believe also that the UN Panel of Experts is a useful asset and should be taken advantage of by the government.