Articles by Gibson Bateman:
May 19, 2013 by Gibson Bateman
Not surprisingly, late last month, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) failed to deal with Sri Lanka. As a result, it looks like the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on the island nation will continue as planned this November. United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister David Cameron has recently announced that he will attend CHOGM. A spokesperson also mentioned that Mr. Cameron would be delivering a “tough message” to Mahinda Rajapaksa this November. (Some may be left wondering if it wouldn’t be more effective for Mr. Cameron to deliver his “tough message” from London while one of his subordinates attends CHOGM and does the same).
By virtually every standard – including media freedom, disappearances, the rule of law and land rights – governance in Sri Lanka has become an unmitigated, incontrovertible disaster. In addition to recent reports by Amnesty International, International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch, recent articles by other groups show that the situation in Sri Lanka just keeps getting worse.
February 28, 2013 by Gibson Bateman
Soon another US-sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka will be tabled at the UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC). It’s very unlikely that the recent high-level US delegation that came to Sri Lanka would have announced that a procedural resolution would be backed if Washington wasn’t absolutely positive that it had the votes to get another resolution through the council. The votes for another resolution on Sri Lanka are there; that’s for sure.
India has already come out and announced that it too will support the resolution – taking a bit of drama out of the whole affair. But it’s also quite revealing because it shows how much the administration of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has overplayed its hand. Let us not forget that less than a year ago, Delhi was reminding people that it wouldn’t support any country-specific resolution at the HRC. Now it looks like Delhi will have supported two in a twelve-month span.
Along with the major international organizations like International Crisis Group (ICG) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), there are probably a few Western countries – though not necessarily the US – that are pushing for something stronger than the draft resolution in its current form. In spite the circumstances, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is still sticking with its (untrue) story – saying that they are doing all they can to implement the LLRC recommendations and comply with the previous HRC resolution. Unfortunately, the problems with the GoSL’s most recent progress report on the LLRC recommendations start on the first page of the first sentence.
February 18, 2013 by Gibson Bateman
I am traveling from Colombo to the United States. Who doesn’t like a change of pace? There will also be additional passport stamps. While I consider myself a pretty well-stamped man, one cannot be satisfied with past achievements…
I absolutely love flying. I am looking forward to the reading and catching up on movies. I’ve wanted to see “Argo” for a while now. I’m also looking forward to the miles. Now that I’m Platinum, I get double miles whenever I fly. This is one sweet deal. It’ll be Colombo to Abu Dhabi to Chicago to elsewhere today. That’s how it goes if one’s flying from the island and not wanting to spend the big bucks.
Colombo to Abu Dhabi came and went. Abu Dhabi to Chicago is about to begin. I’m making my way to the back of the cabin. I have just located my seat.
“Hello,” I tell the woman seated in 43-A. I usually go out of my way not to speak with people on airplanes. I don’t like small talk under any circumstances and running my mouth invariably cuts into reading time – something I cannot ever have too much of.
“But you are not a lady,” she tells me.
December 28, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
President Obama is still working on remaking his foreign policy and national security team, but it looks like John Kerry will be the next Secretary of State. Inside Washington, John Kerry has been a leading voice on foreign policy for decades. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for twenty-seven years, John Kerry has built up a vast network of contacts abroad. John Kerry understands the politics of the Middle East. And he has already travelled extensively for the Obama administration – going to places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
December 17, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
During the past year, one of the Obama administration’s biggest moves at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) received relatively little attention inside the Beltway. In March 2012, the United States led a resolution calling on the government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which examined the breakdown of the truce between the country’s warring factions, and “to take all necessary additional steps” to “ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans.”
It remains unclear what exactly drove the U.S. resolution, but the Sri Lankan government does not appear to have complied with it. The country continues to receive criticism for its human rights record, as disappearances and extrajudicial killings, among other issues, remain problems. Recent developments like a prison riot in Colombo that left 27 inmates dead and the arrest of several University of Jaffna students are also worrisome.
September 29, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
As the 21st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (HRC) ends on 28 September 2012, ongoing human rights developments in Sri Lanka will undoubtedly linger in the minds of many.
Observers will look forward to the country’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review, which will take place this November, and to the National Report the Sri Lankan government has submitted for consideration. Yet it is next year’s HRC session that is particularly intriguing.
June 28, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
Obama and Human Rights
The Obama administration did fight to get a seat on the Human Rights Council (HRC) in 2009; something that George W. Bush probably did not even contemplate.
And, as David Bosco has noted, the US has been relatively active at the HRC since that time. Bosco goes on to say that “The United States has laid special emphasis on the Council’s use of special experts, individuals given a mandate to investigate some particular country or human rights theme.”
May 14, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
On May 18, Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris will meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, DC. The two should have plenty to talk about. The Sri Lankan government’s action plan for the implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) will be at the top of the list.
In late April, there were reports that Mr. Peiris would be bringing a “secret” action plan to Washington. It is not clear why such a document would need to be kept strictly confidential, unless Peiris will be presenting a largely incomplete first draft.
April 3, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
I have always loved international travel, but I have always hated the “immigration” process, except for the part where I get my passport stamped. I realize what I have just written is not entirely rational since it’s hard to have foreign travel without “immigration,” but people are not always rational.
Even when doing nothing wrong, a profound sense of anxiety and apprehension wash over me as I hand my passport to an immigration official. After all, that person is the only thing standing between me and a foreign country—where I can be exposed to new thoughts, practices, mores, traditions and more. Immigration officials stand between me and learning, humility or adventure, matters I do not take lightly.
March 31, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs, G.L. Peiris, has recently given one additional reason for the passage of a resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva: “collective commitments.” Evidently, Mr. Peiris had been informed by one of his European counterparts that certain members of the European Union (EU) were unsupportive of the resolution, but were compelled to vote in favor of it, since a group decision had been taken by the EU.
Mr. Peiris went on to say that even some US Congressman did not view the HRC in a positive light, due to the fact that the body is “politicized.” (It is unclear to this writer how a United Nations forum where nation states meet to discuss human rights could be apolitical, but I will not belabor that point).
March 23, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
Europe and most of Latin America supported the US resolution against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council’s (HRC) 19th session in Geneva. China, Russia, and several countries in Africa and Asia voted against it. Unsurprisingly, Cuba and Ecuador also opposed the resolution. Having never before voted for a “country-specific resolution,” India’s vote was significant, both symbolically and materially. It is unclear what Delhi’s decision will mean when it comes to US-Indian relations in the coming years or what effect it will have on Indo-Sri Lankan ties.
The Sri Lankan government has already stated said that the “intimate relations” between India and Sri Lanka will not be affected, but that is just simplistic government braggadocio. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently said that India does “not want to infringe on the sovereignty of Sri Lanka,” which appears to be incompatible with the vote his country cast on Thursday in Geneva. India was in an extremely difficult position, but it is still hard to believe that they did not abstain.
March 15, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
The US recently tabled a draft resolution against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council’s 19th session in Geneva. No one should be too surprised by this; everyone knew it was coming. However, the draft resolution is so incredibly weak that President Mahinda Rajapaksa must be breathing a sigh of relief. It is no wonder that the US feels confident that it has the votes in needs. Besides, it is likely that the resolution will be watered down even more in the coming days—making this exercise seem that much more formulaic and pointless.
The resolution requests that the government of Sri Lanka implement the recommendations from the Final Report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). In order to achieve this objective, it asks the government to present an outline or roadmap as “expeditiously as possible” so that everyone will know how much progress Sri Lanka is making towards genuine national reconciliation and to addressing purported violations of international law.
February 26, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
The US has made it very clear; they will table a resolution against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council’s (HRC) 19th session in Geneva. Unsurprisingly, the government of Sri Lanka is asking for more time. The Sri Lankan government knows that this might be the most pressure they ever face at the HRC. When it comes to national reconciliation, the government’s strategy continues to revolve around delay, prevarication and even outright lies. President Rajapaksa told critics to be patient because he had appointed a national body, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to handle questions related to national reconciliation and accountability.
The LLRC’s final report has been out for months and, almost shockingly, the report actually contains some good recommendations. But the government thought it imprudent to even begin to consider implementing any of those. More recently, the government’s entire strategy seems to involve linking all questions of accountability and human rights to the country’s participation in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which will take place this October. President Rajapaksa knows that the passing of time only strengthens his hand.
February 24, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
U.S. Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA) recently submitted a bipartisan letter to President Barack Obama. Cosigned by eleven other members of Congress, it effusively praises the Sri Lankan government for all of its accomplishments since end of the country’s twenty-six-year civil war.
The short note is heavy on rhetoric and light on reality. It talks about the enormous potential for a strengthening of US-Sri Lankan relations, going on to use words like “post-conflict,” while congratulating Rajapaksa’s semi-authoritarian regime for doing such a good job of resettling IDPs, among other misperceptions. Perhaps the most absurd part of the letter is the following:
January 16, 2012 by Gibson Bateman
As promised, the Sri Lankan government made the final report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) public last month. It has also recently released its “National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights: 2011-2016.”
The Action Plan was developed in accordance with a commitment the government had made in 2008, the last time Sri Lanka participated in the UN’s Universal Periodic Review. Both documents are part of the Sri Lankan government’s strategy to placate international observers and convince people that there is no need for any kind of international assistance because the country’s domestic institutions are working just fine.