Senior U.S. Human Rights official visits Sri Lanka

[TamilNet, Saturday, 24 May 2008, 07:54 GMT]
Barks-Ruggles, a key official of the U.S. Foreign Service, who earlier served in the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, where her portfolio included peace negotiations in Sri Lanka, visited Colombo on Thursday and met with several senior government officials, political and civil society leaders to address the concerns of the U.S. and others on Human Rights and to emphasize the importance of 'continuing the dialogue' between the U.S. and Sri Lanka, which have enjoyed '60 years of unbroken friendship,' according to a press statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Colombo Saturday.

Full text of the press release follows:


Colombo, May 24, 2008: U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Erica Barks-Ruggles visited Colombo May 22-24 as part of the U.S. Government’s regular, ongoing consultations with the Sri Lankan Government. During her visit, Ms. Barks-Ruggles met with several senior Government of Sri Lanka officials, including Attorney General C. R. De Silva, Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona, Justice Secretary Suhada Gamalath and Secretary of Disaster Management and Human Rights P.D. Amarasinghe. She also met with a broad spectrum of political and civil society leaders.

Ms. Barks-Ruggles emphasized the importance of continuing the dialogue between the U.S. and Sri Lanka, which have enjoyed 60 years of unbroken friendship. She commended recent efforts to address some concerns of the U.S. and others on human rights. In particular, Ms. Barks-Ruggles welcomed recent releases of former child soldiers by the TMVP. She urged the government and others working on this problem to maintain this momentum and ensure that all remaining child soldiers are released in the shortest possible time.

Ms. Barks-Ruggles noted that there are other areas where further progress is needed, such as in combating the problem of abductions and “disappearances.” She stressed that the U.S. places a very high value on freedom of speech and the press. She saluted the civic courage demonstrated by the independent voices in Sri Lanka’s media, some of whom, she said, “have paid too a high price for speaking out.” Ms. Barks-Ruggles commented, “Sri Lanka has the necessary institutional framework in place, but it needs to empower its institutions to carry out their work effectively. Human rights protection needs to be applied in fact, not just in law.” She pointed to dialogue as essential between friends who are open and honest with each other. “The U.S. wants the best possible outcome for our friends – in this case, the country and the people of Sri Lanka,” she stated.

Ms. Barks-Ruggles is a career member of the U.S. Foreign Service with extensive experience in policy planning in the U.S. Department of State and the White House National Security Council. From 2001 to 2004 she served in the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway, where her portfolio included peace negotiations in Sri Lanka and Sudan.


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