US leadership in rights issues questioned

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 23 September 2009, 02:27 GMT]
Noting that the "[Obama] Administration has pursued a low profile approach to Sri Lanka, where a military offensive against rebels is believed to have killed thousands of civilians," Washington Post in an article in Tuesday edition says that rights advocates have been frustrated by several episodes and said US's new approach has undercut U.S. leadership on human rights issues. Responding to U.S.'s assertion that "it[US] is not going to preach its values and not going to impose its values," Kenneth Ross, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said "[t]he problem is they are not American values -- they are international values."

Excerpts related to Sri Lanka from the article follow:

Silence on Sri Lanka?

Dr. Susan Rice
Dr. Susan Rice, US Ambassador to UN
The other major concern of human rights advocates monitoring developments at the United Nations is Sri Lanka.

When the government launched its final offensive this year against the country's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), it was Mexico and Austria that first raised the alarm in the Security Council. France and Britain sent their foreign ministers to the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, to press the government to show restraint.

The United States supported those efforts to draw attention to the crisis in the Security Council, which China and Russia opposed. It backed a compromise that allowed for discussion on the Sri Lanka conflict in the U.N. basement.

"The U.S. government remained relatively silent on the Sri Lankan crisis, especially in the early stages of the fighting," said Fabienne Hara, vice president for multilateral affairs at the International Crisis Group. Its response to Sri Lanka "did not seem to match the commitment to preventing mass human rights abuses stated during the presidential campaign," she said.

Rice challenged that assessment, saying "my perception is that we spoke out very forcefully."She said that the United States had a strong ambassador on the ground in Sri Lanka, conveying American concerns, and that the assistant secretary of state for refugees traveled there to conduct an assessment mission. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rice said, had been personally focused on the issue.

"I think that is an instance where our stand was clear, consistent and principled," she said.

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External Links:
NYT: Sri Lanka Disputes Report of 20,000 Dead
NYT: Sri Lankan Editor Lauded by Obama Is Sentenced to 20 Years
Times: The hidden massacre: Sri Lanka’s final offensive against Tamil Tiger
UNDISPATCH: Samantha Power to the NSC
Atlantic: Bystanders to Genocide by Samantha Power
NYT: UN Expert: Sri Lanka Video Needs Impartial Probe
NYT: Video Sparks Calls for Sri Lankan War-Crimes Inquiry
WP: U.S. Faces Doubts About Leadership on Human Rights


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