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On Sri Lanka, Stealth Solicitation of Submissions by UN Ban War Crimes Panel UNexplained

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 20 -- The lack of seriousness 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:

* * *

On Ban's “Abnormal” Understanding with Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa, UN Won't Answer

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 1, 2010 -- The UN's stonewalling on Sri Lanka expanded on October 1 with the Spokesman for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon dodging whether Ban reached a private understanding with President Mahinda Rajapaksa that Rajapaksa could represent what Ban said in a one on one meeting about the limits of the UN war crimes panel.

It's up to individual heads of state” to issue whatever summaries they want, Spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

But did Ban reach an understanding with Rajapaksa, that he could say things not included in Ban's own summary of their meeting? Nesirky did not answer. Video here, from Minute 47:28.

Inner City Press asked again, as it has for months, for a desciption of Ban's contacts with Rajapaksa, including before and as Ban became Secretary General.

After having promised already to provide the answer, Nesirky on October 1 said he didn't understand the question: a list of meetings? Yes, of meetings and topics and whether Ban considers Rajapaksa a personal friend.

How else to explain what Ban's adviser Nicholas Haysom called the “abnormal” summary of the two men's meeting -- which unlike other UN summaries included the President's as well as Ban's words -- and the separate understanding about Rajapaksa issuing his own summary?

Nesirky has still refused to explain how the “abnormal” summary of Ban's meeting with Rajapaksa was produced. Hayson, for one, seemed surprised to see its content.

That Nesirky couldn't or wouldn't explain how it was produced implies that Nesirky was not involved in his preparation. Who was, then?

On the question of Ban's son in law Siddarth Chatterjee's involvement in Sri Lanka, with the Indian army force, Nesirky deemed it “irrelevant” two weeks after saying he would answer it. On October 1, Inner City Press asked if Nesirky had even deigned to ask Ban or his Office about it -- that is, whether Nesirky had the answer and wouldn't provide it, or didn't even have the answer. Even this was not answered.

Nesirky concluded by repeating that there are a lot of other issues than Sri Lanka: the Middle East, Myanmar...

  After Inner City Press agreed but noted that Sri Lanka is the only country in which Ban has been burned in effigy - and from which people protested his speech at a midtown Manhattan hotel -- and that an “abnormal” summary of his meeting with the President had been issued, Nesirky asked if Inner City Press was saying that because of the burning in effigy, the summary was different. Perhaps it was a rhetorical question.

From the UN's October 1, 2010 transcript:

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Yes, Matthew.

Inner City Press: Sure, I wanted to ask, this is on another inquiry war crimes, the one in Sri Lanka. I have done a little bit more reporting and can say that a Sri Lankan diplomat yesterday told me that President Rajapaksa had an understanding with the Secretary-General that he could issues his own summary of the tête-à-tête meeting. That they violated no rules; that that was the understanding. I wanted to get your comment on that.

Spokesperson: As I said, it’s up to individual countries. If they wish to provide a readout of a meeting, it’s for them to do.

Inner City Press: Was there an understanding? That’s the word that he used to me, that there was an understanding that would be done, but it wasn’t done, and then the Secretary-General chose not to comment. The understanding was that it would be done in that way.

Spokesperson: Well, as I said, this was tête-à-tête meeting. I wasn’t in the room. I assume that the diplomat that you refer to was also not in the room, and I think I will leave it at that.

Inner City Press: I want to ask, you’ve said that the information about Ban Ki-moon’s son-in-law’s involvement in Sri Lanka is irrelevant, although I would encourage you to just answer questions rather than judge their relevance. But I do want to know whether you are going to give an answer to this description of the Secretary-General’s relationship with President Rajapaksa prior to becoming Secretary-General?

Spokesperson: It’s really important to understand precisely: what do you mean by that?

Inner City Press: [inaudible]

Spokesperson: No, I mean what do you want? A list of the number of times they met or what? I mean, it’s just not clear to me.

Inner City Press: The times that they met; the terms on the issues on which they met about, whether, you know, whether the Secretary-General considers him a personal friend. All going to this point of whether, in on extraordinary…, why this, there was an abnormal described by Haysom as abnormal; and why the Sri Lankan Government is now saying they had a special understanding with the Secretary-General that apparently other Governments don’t get when the issue at issue is a inquiry into war crimes and the killing of 40,000 people. It seems relevant. But I mean, whether you think it is irrelevant, I have asked you that. You’d said you’d get it and I don’t have it. And on the question of the son-in-law, I don’t, have you been told? Have you asked the Secretary-General’s Office for that information or have you just not asked him? Do you have it but you don’t want to tell me or you don’t have it? That’s what I want to know.

Spokesperson: Well, the logic of that is a little bit confused. On the question of the Secretary-General’s meetings or otherwise with President Rajapaksa, the Secretary-General, as you know, before he was Secretary-General was the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea. And I will need to check what meetings he may have had in that capacity.

Inner City Press: Check if he went on a visit with the President down to the hometown of the President in southern Sri Lanka.

Spokesperson: And I think we can obviously find that out. I mean, you are asking, we can obviously find out. But I mean, there are a couple of things here. One is that your focus is on this topic. There are many other topics that the Secretary-General deals with, whether it’s Myanmar, or the Middle East or, many topics. And it’s not about homing in and singling out one particular topic.

Inner City Press: No, no, Mr. Haysom himself said it was abnormal, and I think if you look at the readouts that your office put out, there is only one that has a representation of what the country said. It’s also the only country that burned Ban Ki-moon in effigy since he’s been in office. So, I don’t think it’s a random, it’s not a country he picked at random. [inaudible]

Spokesperson: So you think that the readout was done like that because the effigy was burned, is that what you are saying?

Inner City Press: No, I didn’t say that. I said those are true facts that make it significant, you can try to minimize it, but many people were killed, he visited the country [inaudible].

Spokesperson: It’s not about minimizing, it’s not about minimizing. Don’t put words into my mouth, Matthew, It’s not…

Inner City Press: You said there are many other things.

Spokesperson: Yes, that’s not minimizing. That’s just saying that there are other topics.

Inner City Press: But I asked this question at the beginning of the year, about his relationship with Rajapaksa, and I asked it two weeks ago and you’d said you’d get it. So, I don’t want to belabour it, I just want say…

Spokesperson: Well, now you’re belabouring it. And if I have something, I’ll be happy to share it.

Inner City Press: But it’s easy enough to get that. I mean, it’s not…

Spokesperson: Well, if it’s easy enough maybe you will have got it already.

Inner City Press: No, but from the Secretary-General. You are his Spokesman, I am not.

We'll see. 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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