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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.

* * *

On Sri Lanka, UN Can't Confirm Will Talk to White Flag Silva, Or Report Will Be Public

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 22 -- Will the Sri Lanka accountability panel of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon even ask to interview General Shavendra Silva, now posted in New York as the country's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN?

  Inner City Press put this question to Ban's acting Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq on November 22, the day after a widely circulated article “'War Criminal' Gets a UN Job.”

The deputy permanent representative is an employee of the government of Sri Lanka, I would refer those questions to the government of Sri Lanka,” Haq replied. Video here, from Minute 46:08. The government of Sri Lanka, of course, has arrested and barred entry by journalists covering war crimes. Haq and the UN have referred those questions to UNESCO, which has of late said nothing.

Inner City Press asked, since Ban's panel chief Marzuki Darusman is this whole week in South Korea, how much time the panel members are putting into their review of Sri Lanka. Haq replied “they are putting in considerable time,” adding that “a secretariat putting together information.”

But will Ban's panel even ask to interview Shavendra Silva, who was in charge during the alleged murder of those exiting with white flags, a process in which Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar was involved, having only even purported to explain his role once, to a media now barred by Sri Lanka?

As you are well aware we have not been putting out a day by day summary of the people from whom the panel gets information,” Haq replied. He said the panel will submit a report to Ban, “then we'll have information.”

But will the report even be public?

Silva glowers - Ban's panel cowers? Answers not seen

  Haq said that Ban Ki-moon will decide. So the UN cannot even say it will ask to interview Shavendra Silva, and will in all probability never even make clear if it asked to interview him. Some panel.

Footnote: that a sitting General like Silva would come in the Deputy and not Permanent Representative spot has been marveled at by other diplomats at the UN. Another DPR has even asked Silva about it.
  Monday at the UN Security Council, Silva was not seen. Rather, Perm Rep Palitha Kohona handed Inner City Press his statement on "Protection of Civilians," saying "quote from it." Okay: "the Government policy of zero civilian casualties had a deep impact [on] the country's professional armed services." Just ask Shavendra Silva -- if you can.

  From the UN's November 22 transcript:

Inner City Press: I want to ask you one thing about Sri Lanka. There is a story in, over the weekend, I guess it’s a confirmation or making more public that the headline story is “War Criminal Gets UN Job”. So, I am asking you to respond; the new Deputy Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka is in fact a general that was allegedly involved in the killing of the white flag people in which, I believe, that the Chief of Staff of the Secretary-General had some phone calls, not in any killing, had some knowledge of — what I wanted to know is whether, one, whether the UN has any response to a story that is entitled, at least, “war criminal gets job”; and two, whether the Secretary-General’s Panel would be interviewing an individual who is in New York City, entering the building, who is widely now linked to an alleged war crime?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq: The Deputy Permanent Representative to the Mission is an employee of the Government of Sri Lanka, so I would refer those questions to the Government of Sri Lanka.

Inner City Press: What about the Panel’s role? I notice that Mr. [Marzuki] Darusman is today in South Korea. I wanted to get a sense on that Panel; how much time is actually being put into the Panel by the three members?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: They’re putting in considerable time, and as you know, they also have a regular secretariat that is beyond the three panellists themselves; the secretariat that is putting together information so that work continues.

Inner City Press: Do they intend to talk to this individual who is now, you know, described in a widely [inaudible]?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: As you are well aware, we haven’t been putting out a day-by-day summary of the people from whom the Panel gets information. They will report to the Secretary-General once they have their advisory report ready. And at that point we’ll have some information on that. But we don’t have…

Inner City Press: This is my last question now on that. Is there any idea yet whether that report will be made public?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: We’ll have to see. As you know, it is an internal body, but it will be up to the Secretary-General to determine what he makes public once he received that information.

 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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