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At UN on Sri Lanka War Crimes Panel Deadline, Secretariat on 2 Week Vacation, Ban Ki-moon Silent on Discrimination

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 15 -- On Sri Lanka, today is the deadline set by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Panel of Experts for written submissions. The Panel, through an automatic e-mail from its Secretariat who says he is “out of the office” through the end of the year, states that it “has a limited time for its work and has therefore chosen to request contributions in the written form.”

Thus it appears that the Panel did not speak to anyone, nor did it ever even ask to travel to Sri Lanka. The government of Mahinda Rajapaksa said that visas would be denied. This or inertia seems to have been enough to avoid even a request for visas.

In the days before the deadline, as many submitters sent copies of their e-mails to Inner City Press, they were accompanied by some complaints saying that submissions were being rejected or bounced back. (See footnote below.)

  To verify or disprove this, Inner City Press sent in an e-mail which with including some documents and suggestions asked for confirmation of receipt.

This came, along with the troubling disclaimer that “I am out of the Office until December 31, 2010.”

So of the Panel's “limited time,” the Secretariat went on vacation for more than two weeks, at the deadline for submissions until two weeks before the Report is ostensibly due.

It has been impossible to get real answers or transparency from the Panel, or from the UN. Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: on the Secretary-General’s Sri Lanka panel, there is a story on something called News Now Sri Lanka, quoting some type of a release or response by the secretariat of the panel, saying, among other things, that they chose not to speak to anyone orally, but only to take written submissions. One, I wanted you to confirm if this is true that the panel never spoke to anyone, as it seems to say. And two, what’s the process for putting in, for media organizations interested in this topic, putting a request to the secretariat and getting an answer, as apparently News Now Sri Lanka did?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, on the last point, you can ask us at any point. That doesn’t mean that we will necessarily be able to answer, or that the panel will be able to answer, because, as we’ve said from the outset, the panel has a job to do in a certain timeframe, and when they have something to say to the media they will typically do that through us. That’s the first point. On the other point that you raised about the procedure, let me check. I think some of that is available on the web, where they have information about how people can submit material to the panel.

Inner City Press: Because they are quoted now saying an e-mail to News Now Lanka from the secretariat of the panel, saying that they didn’t speak to anyone early. So, that’s why I am wondering…

Spokesperson Nesirky: As I said, I believe, as I understand it, there was an announcement that submissions could be made by anybody. And I think it’s in that context that a reply may have been sent. But let me check.

As has been the case throughout this process, there has been no follow up by the UN Secretariat, no answers provided.

UN's Ban portrayed with gun and Rajapaksa brother, Secretariat on vacation

 On December 13 Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: in Sri Lanka, the President had a cabinet meeting of ministers, issued a directive that henceforth the national anthem will only be in Sinhala, and that previous allowance of it also being in Tamil would now be eliminated since… so, I just wondered, in light of that May 2009 statement that Ban Ki-moon issued with the President, does he view this as consistent with that statement, the idea that, with the war being over, that it would now be, not just a single language, but that many Tamils are pretty upset about this? Is there any comment from the Secretariat?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, we’re certainly aware of the report, but I don’t have any comment at the moment. If that changes, then we’ll let you know.

Two days later, apparently from the UN Secretary General's Office's perspective, nothing has changed. Others in the UN are spinning that there is no language ban, while pointing to “discriminatory” land actions. But nothing is being done; even the Secretariat in charge of this war crimes Panel of Expert is on a two week vacation. Watch this site.

Footnote: Here is a sample bounce-back notice forwarded to Inner City Press:

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:

Technical details of permanent failure:

Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain. We recommend contacting the other email provider for further information about the cause of this error. The error that the other server returned was: 552 552 Request not completed, exceeded storage allocation (state 18)

Many think this should require an extension of the time to receive evidence. Watch this site.

* * *

On Sri Lanka, ICC Prosecution “Could Be an Option” for State Party Nationals

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 7 -- With International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo at the UN on Tuesday, Inner City Press asked him about the killings in Sri Lanka and if and when the ICC could take action. Video here, from Minute 21:14.

Ocampo began with the obvious, that Sri Lanka is not a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC. But as Inner City Press pointed out in its question, several of those suspected of war crimes in Sri Lanka have dual citizenship, some with countries that ARE members of the ICC.

Ocampo said that if there becomes “clarity that nationals of state parties committed crimes, that could be an option.” Video here, from Minute 23:29.

  By providing such clarity and addressing this obvious legal and factual question, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's otherwise defanged Panel of Experts -- which has not even asked to go to Sri Lanka, nor confirmed it will speak with Sri Lankan military figures posted in the country's Mission to the UN -- could at least perform some service.

Ocampo & UN's Ban: Panel's discussion o nationals of ICC state parties not shown

It should be noted that the ICC under Ocampo says it is considered charges against non state parties, including most recently North Korea / DPRK. While the ICC can only get involved when local / national judicial processes fail, the leaked cable by US Ambassador in Sri Lanka Patricia Butenis notes that

There are no examples we know of a regime undertaking wholesale investigations of its own troops or senior officials for war crimes while that regime or government remained in power. In Sri Lanka this is further complicated by the fact that responsibility for many alleged crimes rests with the country's senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his brothers and opposition candidate General Fonseka."

This analysis, which so upset the Rajapaksa government that Ambassador Butenis nearly alone among US Ambassadors issued her own press release seeking to explain it, runs counter to US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice's more positive public statement AFTER Butenis' on the ground assessment of the Rajapaksa run Lessons Learnt process.

Earlier on Tuesday, Inner City Press asked the speaker at the ICC State Parties event for Human Rights Watch Rickard Dicker about Sri Lanka. Video here, from Minute 42:14.

HRW's Dicker said “I would look to China... and to Australia and the US to arrest Sri Lankans in their country who may have committed war crimes.” We'll see.

 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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