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At UN, Sri Lanka Shooting of Opposition Draws No Comment, No Probe

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 12 -- A week after the UN went public with its rejection of requests for assistance to ensure greater freedom and fairness in Sri Lanka's upcoming election, a bus load of supporters of opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka was attacked by gunmen, killing one and injuring ten others.

  Inner City Press asked the spokesman for Ban Ki-moon, who had said he was closely watching to ensure greater political openness in Sri Lanka, if Mr. Ban had any comment on the death political attack or would re-think his decision for the UN to play no safeguarding role in the election. Video here, from Minute 7:08.

  Having just heard United Nations Office for West Africa official Said Djinnit describe the UN's work in Togo to "prevent violence" in advance of that country's February 2010 election, Inner City Press asked why the UN would be providing such help in Togo, but not in Sri Lanka which Mr. Ban said he was concerned about.

  Mr. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said it is not a "good idea" to be "drawing links between geographical regions."

   He said the UN had made it clear why it will not be providing observers or even technical assistance in Sri Lanka -- these reason are that there was not enough time, that a General Assembly vote was purportedly required -- and that, since the shooting incident was recent, there was no UN response.

   But will there be a response from Ban's UN in the future?

UN's Ban in Sri Lanka, waving, deadly attack on opposition supporters not shown

  Ban named a commission of inquiry into the death of 157 people in Guinea in September 2009, but none into thousands of killings in Sri Lanka. But, notably, France pushed Ban to name the Guinea panel, despite some opposition from Russia.

  Here, neither France nor the UK or U.S. -- countries that could deny Ban a second term as Secretary General -- have pushed for Ban to do more, and so he hasn't.

* * *

On War Crimes, UN's Ban Listens to Sri Lanka President over Alston's "Personal" Views, No Accountability

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 11 -- Days after video footage depicting Sri Lankan soldiers murdering naked and blindfolded prisoners was authenticated by UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to comment on Alston's urging him to establish a commission of inquiry on war crimes, as Mr. Ban did in Guinea. Video here, from Minute 16:38.

Mr. Ban's answer, surprising to some, distanced Mr. Alston from the UN, giving weight to the Sri Lankan government's out of hand rejection of the video and Mr. Alston's requests.

Ban said of Alston, "he is the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council. He is acting independently. You might have heard statements made by the Sri Lankan Government and his own personal one. We will review all these situations."

The "statements made by the Sri Lankan government" since Alston's report have consisted of claiming Alston violated UN protocol by releasing his experts' report authenticating the video.

When Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky about Sri Lanka's accusations on January 8, Nesirky emphasized that Sri Lanka had not accused Ban of violating protocol. He is correct: by undercutting a UN human rights rapporteur's report by noting the government's denial.

UN's Ban and Nesirky, Sri Lankan independent inquiry not shown

 From the January 11 transcript:

Inner City Press: I also wanted to know if you had any response to Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on executions, calling on you to name a Commission of Inquiry for war crimes in Sri Lanka. He said that you did it in Guinea, you could do it in Sri Lanka, and I am wondering what you think of his report and his call?

SG Ban Ki-moon: I have seen the report, and he is the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council. He is acting independently. You might have heard statements made by the Sri Lankan Government and his own personal one. We will review all these situations and we will what the United Nations can do to follow up on these issues. There are still many issues pending: the relocation of displaced persons in Sri Lanka by the end of this month, and the political reconciliation process and also the accountability process, which I have talked to President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa during my visit, to which he had agreed to take the necessary actions. I will continue to follow up on this issue. Thank you very much.

  On January 7, Nesirky told the Press that Ban had let the Sri Lankan government know that he is considering appointing experts to advise him on war crimes in Sri Lanka. Inner City Press asked when Ban had said this, and Nesirky said he'd check.

  Later he confirmed to Inner City Press that the call was three months ago, a letter delivered by the UN's Lynn Pascoe in September. Still, Nesirky insisted, the idea remains "under active consideration."

  Given Ban's January 11 response, to many it does not sound like Ban is in such active consideration. Ban is still replying on Rajapaka's "assurance," and given Sri Lanka's denials primacy over Alston's "personal" views. What was that again, about accountability? 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.

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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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