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On Verge of 2d Term, Ban Still Hasn't Watched Sri Lanka Killing Fields Film, Called Not Correct

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 21 -- As the film Sri Lanka Killing Fields was screened Tuesday on the west side of First Avenue in New York, across the street at the UN Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky if Ban has yet seen the film, and for the UN's response to its conclusion that Ban has not implemented the recommendation of his own Panel of Experts on war crimes in the country.

  Nesirky, while stating that Ban has not seen the film -- available online including here -- said that Ban's role is “something not correctly portrayed in that film.” But when asked by Inner City Press if even the review of the UN's own actions, committed to by Ban in April, has in fact begun,

 Nesirky said only that “the process of coordinating between different parts of the UN system, to ensure that kind of internal look, is being coordinated between different agency and diff parts of the Secretariat at the moment.”

  Among the UN actions to be reviewed are withholding casualty figures, pulling out of Kilinochchi, and the role of Ban's own chief of staff Vijay Nambiar in conveying assurances of safety to surrenderees, who were in fact killed in the so-called White Flag incident.

 With whom will Ban coordinate about that one, some have asked -- Nambiar?

Ban & Mahinda Rajapaksa, Killing Fields and chopper offer not shown

  Then Nesirky told Inner City Press, “you were there with the Secretary General in Sri Lanka [in May 2009], you know well yourself it was more than a whistlestop tour to one refugee camp. You were a witness to that yourself.”

  Yes -- and that's one of the reasons to be pursuing these questions, even on the day Ban is slated to get a second five year term as Secretary General. We'll be covering that as well -- watch this site.

Footnote: at the screening in the Church Center, five men in suits at the back of the room said they had a stack of Sri Lanka's response to the film. Inner City Press, on the way to the UN noon briefing, asked for a copy. “You'll get it afterward,” one of them said, refusing to provide a copy. It's said that Sri Lankan Ambassador Palitha Kohona was going to respond. He too was involved in the White Flag incident; separately the Mission he heads often urges more positive coverage of Sri Lanka. But why not provide the response? We'll see.

* * *

As UN Denies Sri Lankan Copter Offer, Killing Fields Moved Out of UN

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 17 -- The UN on Friday denied it has received any offers for helicopters from Sri Lanka.

  After air force spokesman air force spokesman Andy Wijesuriya was quoted that “we have offered our aircraft” -- Ukraine-manufactured Mi-24 helicopter gunships as well as Chinese-made Y-12 fixed-wing transporters -- Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky how the Panel of Experts' report on war crimes would impact the UN's review of the offer.

  Four hours later Nesirky's office sent this response to Inner City Press:

Subject: Your question on Sri Lanka
Date: Fri, Jun 17, 2011 at 4:24 PM
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
To: Matthew.Lee [at]
Cc: Martin Nesirky [at]

Regarding the offer of gunships, DPKO's Force Generation Service has not yet received any formal offer from Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan air force was involved in what even UN under secretary general John Holmes called the “bloodbath on the beach” in 2009, most recently depicted in UK Channel 4's “Killing Fields” documentary.

  This was to be screened inside the UN in New York on June 21, just before a vote is taken in the General Assembly on Ban Ki-moon getting a second five year term as Secretary General. (As of June 15, Ban had not watch the film, Nesirky told Inner City Press.)

  But now the screening has been moved outside of the UN, to the “Church Center” across the street. Sri Lankan Ambassador Palitha Kohona told Inner City Press he was going to attend the screening if it was inside the UN. Apparently, he will not attend across the street. Of the scenes of extrajudicial execution, he said one cannot prove who is Sinhalese and who is Tamil. There is, of course, a sound track. Watch this site.

* * *

On Sri Lanka, Ban Hasn't Seen Killing Fields Film Nor Reviewed UN Actions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 15 -- The day after the one hour documentary “Sri Lanka Killing Fields” was shown on Britain's Channel 4 and the Internet, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky a series of questions about the extrajudicial killings, rapes and UN misdeeds portrayed in the film.

  Nesirky said that Ban “has not actually seen the documentary” but is “aware of its themes.” 

  Inner City Press asked what Ban has done on his commitment back in April to review the UN's own actions in Sri Lanka. The documentary shows the UN workers leaving Kilinochchi, covers the extrajudicial execution of two surrendering Tamil Tiger leaders -- assurances of whose safety were conveyed by Ban's own chief of staff Vijay Nambiar.

  Even after forty days, that review has not started. When Inner City Press asked Ban about it on June 6, when he announced his bid for a second five year term as Secretary General, Ban did not answer that part of the question. On June 15, Nesirky said that the Secretariat is “working with other parts” of the UN system “on how that will actually take place.”

Ban is awaiting re-appointment in the Security Council on June 16, and in the General Assembly on June 21. Killing Fields may be screened inside the UN in New York before that process is over. Will Ban has seen it by then? (Click here to view it.)

Inner City Press asked Nesirky if Ban has reconsidered his position that he cannot or will not follow the recommendation by his own Panel of Experts that he establish an independent international investigation mechanism until either Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa government agrees, or the Security Council, Human Rights Council or General Assembly orders it.

Nesirky repeated previous statements but added that for an investigation to have “administrative and judicial powers,” a vote by one of the three bodies would be required.

Inner City Press asked if that was an acknowledgment that an investigation like the Democratic Republic of the Congo Mapping Report could be initiated without waiting for a Security Council, Human Rights Council or General Assembly vote.

On this, Nesirky used a phrase that he has used before: that the Panel of Experts report “is out there.” So is the documentary The Killing Fields. But what will Ban Ki-moon do? Watch this site.

From the UN's June 6, 2011 transcript:

Inner City Press: You commissioned that Panel of Experts report; then you said that you couldn’t do any investigation unless an intergovernmental body orders you to. Ms [Navenethem] Pillay has said that such a body should be set up. Do you follow in that? And what steps have you taken on this idea that you would review the UN’s own performance in the final stages of the conflict? Even your Chief of Staff has been described in a still murky incident of the killing of surrendering fighters. So I was wondering: have you taken any steps in the forty days since you said that to do that?

SG Ban Ki-moon: You must have read all the recommendations of the Panel’s report. Most of the recommendations of the Panel’s report concern steps which the Sri Lankan Government needs to take. Beyond what I can do within the UN to review its actions during the final stage of conflict, much will depend on the Government of Sri Lanka and the Member States who have been studying this report. Addressing the issue of accountability will be an essential step towards lasting peace and stability in the country. And I will continue to discuss this matter with the Sri Lankan leadership so that they will implement fully the recommendations in this Panel’s report. First and foremost, proper action is needed to be taken by the Sri Lankan Government. That’s what the international community really wants. Again, another one is that I am still awaiting the response of the Sri Lankan Government. I am checking almost every day, every week so that they will send their response as soon as possible. That can give me further review on their response.

* * *

On Sri Lanka, Ban Claims UN Couldn't Assess Casualties, Leak Shows UN Did

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 27 -- On Sri Lanka, UN “staff were not in the position to assess” the number of casualties in 2009, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky told the Press on April 27, as they had to withdraw because the Government said security could not be guaranteed.

But as Inner City Press reported and published on March 27, 2009, a detailed UN document it obtained reported that the "minimum number of documented civilian casualties since 20 January 2009, as of 7 March 2009 in the conflict area of Mullaitivu Region [is] 9,924 casualties including 2,683 deaths and 7,241 injuries.”

Click here for the leaked document, and here for Inner City Press' report which exclusively published it.

Ban's UN refused to confirm its own Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs casualty figures. It now appears, including based on statements by staff who have since left the UN, that Ban's UN consciously decided to withhold and once leaked deny the casualty information it WAS in the position to compile.

Nesirky on April 27, when Inner City Press followed up on questions it put to Ban the previous day, said that this topic and others will now be reviewed by the UN, by Ban and his senior advisers.

Inner City Press asked Nesirky if Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, who was involved in the White Flag killings which appear in the UN report at Paragraph 171, will be one of the senior advisers involved in the review.

“There are many senior advisers,” Nesirky said, adding that the review “will look at the full range of topics contained” in the report.

The question remains: should a senior adviser like Nambiar be allowed to play any role in the review of an incident he was involved in? The answer should have been, and should be, no -- but hasn't been.

Inner City Press asked if this review will be made public. Nesirky would not say, but acknowledged that there is a public interest in it. With 40,000 civilians reportedly killed, yes there is a public interest.

Amazingly, after Ban said he “is advised” that the report's recommendations can only be investigated if the Rajapaksa government consents or members states vote for it in an intergovernmental forum, Ban when he reported on Sri Lanka to the UN Security Council on April 26 did not even ask them to schedule a vote on the recommendation for an investigation of war crimes. We'll have more on this.

From the Panel of Experts report:

The "White Flag" incident

170. Various reports have alleged that the political leadership of the LTTE and their dependents were executed when they surrendered to the SLA. In the very final days of the war, the head of the LTTE political wing, Nadesan, and the head of the Tiger Peace Secretariat Pulidevan, were in regular communication with various interlocutors to negotiate surrender. They were reportedly with a group of around 300 civilians. The LTTE political leadership was initially reluctant to agree to an unconditional surrender, but as the SLA closed in on the group in their final hideout, Nadesan and Pulidevan, and possibly Colonel Ramesh, were prepared to surrender unconditionally. This intention was communicated to officials of the United Nations and of the Governments of Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as to representatives of the ICRC and others. It was also conveyed through intermediaries to Mahinda, Gotabaya and Basil Rajapaksa, former Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona and senior officers in the SLA.

171. Both President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Basil Rajapaksa [sic?] provided assurances that their surrender would be accepted. These were conveyed by intermediaries to the LTTE leaders, who were advised to raise a white flag and walk slowly towards the army, following a particular route indicated by Basil Rajapaksa.[sic?]  Requests by the LTTE for a third party to be present at the point of surrender were not granted. Around 6.30 a.m. on 18 May 2009. Nadesan and Pulidevan left their hide-out to walk towards the area held by the 58th Division, accompanied by a large group, including their families. Colonel Ramesh followed behind them, with another group. Shortly afterwards, the BBC and other television stations reported that Nadesan and Pulidevan had been shot dead. Subsequently, the Government gave several different accounts of the incident. While there is little information on the circumstances of their death, the Panel believes that the LTTE leadership intended to surrender.

  On the morning of April 21, Inner City Press asked Ban's top two spokesmen to "please state the role of Mr. Nambiar in reviewing the report." No response has yet been received, more than 60 hours later. We will have more on this. Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb .26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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