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On Sri Lanka, Stealth Solicitation of Submissions by UN Ban Panel Unexplained

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 20 -- The lack of rigor of the Panel of Experts on war crimes in Sri Lanka appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is exemplified by the “soft launch” of their call for the submission of evidence.

  Days ago, Inner City Press was forwarded a copy of what seemed to be a UN Panel notice that evidence could be e-mailed until December 15. But the notice came from the comments section of a Sri Lankan website. An Internet search on the morning of October 20 found the notice on only one other website.

  So at the UN noon briefing on October 20 Inner City Press asked for confirmation that this obscure notice did in fact originate from Ban Ki-moon's Panel. Ban's acting Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq read a prepared statement that yes, it was the Panel's notice. He refused to explain where it has been posted, and why it had been so quiet.

This takes place as major human rights groups have declined to participate in the Sri Lankan government's own “Lessons Learnt” panel, and Sri Lankan minister of external affairs G.L. Peiris in turn calls the human rights groups “colonialist.” Meanwhile, new pictures portraying identifiable Sri Lankan military officers leading bound prisoners, and corpses on the ground, have emerged.

Photo, ICP claims no copyright, UN Panel solicitation not shown

  If this and other evidence is submitted to Ban Ki-moon's stealth panel, what will they do with it? If a Panel meets in secret, and even downplays its own solicitation of submissions, what is the sound of one hand clapping? Watch this site.

From one of only two notices on the Internet, reprinted as a public service:

UN Expert Panel call for evidence on alleged violations in Sri-Lanka

On 22 June 2010, the UN Secretary-General established a Panel of Experts to advise him on the issue of accountability with regard to alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka. The members of the Panel are Marzuki Darusman, Steven Ratner and Yasmin Sooka. The Panel officially began its work on 16 September 2010.

The Panel will look into the modalities, applicable international standards and comparative experie nce with regard to accountability processes, taking into consideration the nature and scope of any alleged violations in Sri Lanka. The Panel advises the Secretary-General and is not an investigative or fact-finding body.

Anyone wishing to make submissions in respect of the above may do so as follows:

1. Organizations and individuals may make one written submission not exceeding ten pages, and must include the contact details for the author(s) of the submission.

2. The Panel will receive submissions until 15 December 2010.

3. Submissions may be sent to:

4. Submissions made to the Panel of Experts will be treated as confidential.

Further information may be solicited from the Panel s Secretariat at the following address:

* * *

At UN, Outsourced Report and Reporter Dodge Congo Rapes, Unanswered Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 20 -- The UN might not actually protect civilians, but it has been counted on to issue reports, often statistical, about demographics, discrimination and forms of development.

  But the UN Population Fund's “State of the World Population 2010,” despite its title, is a sort of extended pro-UN magazine article written by former New York Times UN correspondent Barbara Crossette.

  When Ms. Crossette introduced the publication to the UN press corps on October 20, it was first in a faux Q & A format with a UNFPA staffer.

  When this staffer cum questioner opened the floor for questions, Ms. Crossette answered the first question about UN peacekeepers by saying “the UN is unfairly blamed.”

  Inner City Press then asked, since her report contained photos and quotes from Secretary Bank Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom, whether Ms. Crossette thought Wallstrom was unfairly blamed for not having heard of the mass rapes in the Congo until three weeks after they occurred. (Even then, Ms. Wallstrom did not go to the Congo for several more weeks.)

  Ms. Crossette pointed out that Ms. Wallstrom “prefers to be called MargoT” (with a T) and talked about Wallstrom's more recent statements. But what about the breakdown in communications between the MONUSCO peacekeeping mission (and wider UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Ms. Wallstrom's office, which has been in operation for months?

  When Inner City Press followed up by asking about the UN's role in negotiations with disproportionately few women in both the Kivus in the Congo and in Doha about Darfur, Ms. Crossette said it is the governments which choose who goes to the peace talks. But the UN flies them - and pays. As does UNFPA.

  The UNFPA editor of Ms. Crossette's report, Richard Kollodge, then said that it would be better to ask DPKO about this. Ms. Crossette went on to say “I don't speak for UNFPA, I speak as a journalist.”

  After the press conference, several correspondents questioned just this. If a person is paid by the UN to write a pro-UN report, is it an act of journalism? How much was Ms. Crossette paid, and how was she selected? Would a report more critical of the UN have been published by UNFPA?

  What, one correspondent asked, about Ms. Crossette functioning as The Nation magazine's UN correspondent while being paid by the UN to write pro-UN reports? Certainly The Nation is free to be pro-multilateralism and pro-UN. But why not then called UN spokesman Martin Nesirky The Nation's UN Correspondent?

  (Inner City Press has learned from a number of Ms. Crossette's dispatches in her former positions. But the questions about UNFPA's pay and selection process and implications should be answered.)

Ms. Crossette at the UN, disclosures re UNFPA & Wallstrom not shown

  A request after the press conference for the type of information one expects to be in a report like “State of the World Population 2010” resulted in an offer to produce a “statistics expert” later. Why does an anecdotal (faux) journalistic report have such a title? Questions, questions. Watch this site.

Footnote: As we reported on October 18, MONUSCO chief Roger Meece, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations that day, refused from the podium to say when he had informed Ms. Wallstrom about the rapes, which e-mails indicate MONUSCO became aware of from July 30 onward. Afterward, his special assistant Reuben Culpin urged Inner City Press not to wait to ask Meece on his way out, but rather to send the questions by e-mail.

  Inner City Press did, to both Messrs. Culpin and Meece. But Culpin's email said “out of the office,” and in the two days since, no answer has been provided. So much for “ask DPKO.” Inner City Press even asked Farhan Haq of Nesirky's office, without yet getting a response. But the inquiry will continue.

Watch this site, follow on Twitter @InnerCityPress.

 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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