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On Sri Lanka, UN Puts Spin on "No Delay," Jabs at NAM, Will Fonseka Meet Pascoe?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 18 -- Amid charges by the UN that the Non Aligned Movement's letter defending Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa government was not agreed to by all NAM member, notably India, the UN is insisting there is no contradiction between its statements about a panel to advise Ban Ki-moon about approaches to war crimes in Sri Lanka.

On March 18, Inner City Press asked Ban's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq about his quote that the panel would not be established very soon and Ban's March 16 statements that there would be "no delay."

  "To many it seems contradictory," Inner City Press began. "By many you mean you?" demanded Farhan Haq. Video here, from Minute 7:55.

  Well, no. Even after the briefing, a number of UN correspondents who neither ask nor write about Sri Lanka approached Inner City Press to say they too found it confusing, no delay but not very soon.

  Haq tried to square the comments by saying no delay in considering the terms of reference. Presumably Ban considered this before informing Mahinda Rajapaksa he was going to name the panel. Again, timing in this regard should be compared to Guinea, where the September 2009 killing of 150 civilians has already triggered a UN panel, terms of reference and investigation long completed. No delay?

  Senior Ban advisors have told Inner City Press that they are mad at the NAM letter, claiming that India for example did not agree to the letter. Inner City Press is inquiring. For now, Inner City Press has obtained the NAM letter -- the Sri Lankan Mission to the UN declined to provide it to the press -- and puts it online here.

Ban and Basil Rajapaksa depicted with gun, delay and NAM not shown

  Just as the "no delay" panel may in fact be intentionally delayed past Sri Lanka's April election, so too many the trip of Ban's envoy Lynn Pascoe. The question is, will Pascoe as least ask for, and hold out to receive, permission to meet with Sarath Fonseka, the imprisoned opposition candidate and former general? One cynic pointed to the UN asking to meet in Myanmar with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Another senior Ban advisor said that the Sri Lanka "case calls out of investigation" even more than Guinea, in that the "general who shot the gun at people with white flags" is saying he was ordered to. But what about the UN official, Ban's chief of staff, who told them to come out with white flags, that it would be ok? Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, Ban Says "No Delay" in Naming Sri Lanka Panel, Report Only to Him

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 16 -- Stressing that his panel on Sri Lankan war crimes will only report to him, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday told the Press that the Non Aligned Movement "misunderstood" his announcement about the panel.

  Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban, in a press conference before his travel to Moscow for a meeting of the Middle East Quartet, to respond to criticism that he has moved much more slowly on presumptive war crimes in Sri Lanka in early 2009 than on the killing of 150 civilians in Guinea in September.

  There will be "no delay" in naming the panel, Mr. Ban replied. The previous day, his spokesman Martin Nesirky told Inner City Press the panel would not be established very soon. So which is it -- "no delay" or "not very soon"?

UN's Ban at NAM Summit, with Egypt's president, Sri Lanka panel not yet shown

  Mr. Ban said he will be responding directly to the NAM, which wrote that "there is nothing in the U.N. charter that authorizes intervention in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state, without prejudice of course to the application of enforcement measures under chapter VII."

  Several of Ban's advisors have expressed outrage at the NAM letter. The request for the letter by the Rajapaksa government been ascribed to "internal politics" in Sri Lanka. But it would set a precedent.

  As Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban, "the argument would apply to other countries, from Myanmar to Guinea to North Korea." He did not respond to this aspect, nor to the comparison in speed to his actions on Guinea. Did the NAM letter slow his hand? Mr. Ban has now said there will be "no delay." We'll see.

Footnote: later in his March 16 press conference, unprompted, Ban said that while "standard diplomatic practice" is to agree on how to describe a phone conversation, not only Israel but also Sri Lanka have recently violated that practice or protocol. For Israel, the reference was to statements that Ban was told to be "more balanced."

  For Sri Lanka, it appears to refer to President Mahinda Rajapaksa's statements about how he stood up to, or dressed down, Ban during their call about the panel. But why then say, as Ban's spokespeople have, that the panel's appointment will be "not very soon"? What will "no delay" mean?

  UN transcript below, video here

Inner City Press: Mr. Secretary-General, you've received a letter from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which argues that you and your office as Secretary-General really don't have any jurisdiction over human rights or alleged war crimes. The letter is about Sri Lanka, but the logic would apply to Myanmar, Guinea, North Korea. I wonder what's your response to their argument of limiting the scope of your jurisdiction, and how do you explain what some see as the delay in naming a panel compared to, say, what you did in Guinea, where you named one and it's already reported out? Some say that the NAM letter has caused you to delay naming a panel to advise you on Sri Lanka. Can you respond to that?

SG Ban Ki-moon: First of all, about the letter addressed to me by the Non-Aligned Movement. It is clear from the NAM letter that there is a misunderstanding on the nature and purpose of the panel of experts that I intend to establish. I will take this up directly with the Non-Aligned Movement. On this report which you have seen quoting the Sri Lankan Government, that my establishment of this commission of experts would be tantamount to interfering in the internal matters of Sri Lanka, again this is in accordance with the joint statement issued as a result of my visit and as a result of my meeting with President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa, in May last year. It contained, this joint statement contained, a commitment related to ensuring an accountability process for addressing valuations of international humanitarian and human rights laws. The panel I am establishing will advise me on the standards, benchmarks, and parameters, based on international experience, that must guide any accountability process such as the one mentioned in the joint statement. Now this panel will report to me directly and not to any other body. It is well within my power, I believe. I am convinced that it is well within my power as Secretary-General of the United Nations to ask such a body to furnish me with their advice of this nature. This does not in any way infringe on the sovereignty of Sri Lanka. I'd like to make it clear that there will be no delay in the establishment of the panel.

We'll see

* * *

On Sri Lanka, UN Now Says Panel "Not Very Soon," Response to NAM, and by UK

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 15 -- Even after the UN says it will belatedly take some action about war crimes in Sri Lanka, , it steps back from its announcement, using as justification a letter whose logic even UN senior advisers find specious.

  A week after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he "made clear to President Rajapaksa that I intend to move forward on a Group of Experts which will advise me on setting the broad parameters and standards on the way ahead on establishing accountability concerning Sri Lanka," now there is no timetable for establishing the panel.

  Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky on March 15 about the timing, and a pro-Rajapaksa letter submitted to Ban by Egypt's Ambassador on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement. Nesirky, reading from notes, said that the panel is "unlikely to be established very soon." He did not respond about the NAM letter. Video here, from Minute 6:25.

  Afterwards, Inner City Press asked a senior Ban adviser, who immediately questioned the logic of the NAM letter. "They will be getting a reply," the adviser promised. While he tried to explain the now announced delay is setting up the panel of experts, one can compare this to the speed with which Ban named a panel on the killing of 150 civilians in Guinea on September 28, 2009.

  The panel was named, investigated and has already reported. By contrast, on many more killing in Sri Lanka in early 2009, the UN says that its late announced panel is "unlikely to be established very soon." Why?

UN's Ban and UK's Miliband, NAM letter and Guinea double standard not shown

  Also on Sri Lanka and war crimes, while UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband did not, as UK embassies in the U.S. had appeared to promise, respond to Inner City Press' timely submitted question about the investigation of and accountability for war crimes -- "If Sri Lanka refuses to investigate war crimes does UK think the UN should name a panel of inquiry as in Guinea?" -- the following was later received:

Subject: Sri Lanka
From: Brian.McGuigan, British Embassy, Washington
To: Inner City Press
Date: Fri, Mar 12, 2010

Matthew, We're sorry that the Foreign Secretary was not able to answer your question on Twitter. We'd still like to give you a response from the British Government, however.

This was a war without witness. The UK supports any credible process to address possible violations of international humanitarian law by both sides to the conflict. Such a process could advance the prospects of national reconciliation. Whatever the outcome of the UN process, the GoSL retains primary responsibility to investigate possible war crimes committed on its territory and we urge it to do so.

   We will have more on this.

* * *

On Sri Lanka, UN's Ban Restates Concern on Lack of Progress, Unaware of Job Request

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 8 -- After a weekend during which Sri Lanka's president and ruling party attacked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for saying he will name a panel to advise himself about possible war crimes in Sri Lanka, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban for his side of the story.

  Ban said " I am concerned with the lack of progress of the joint statement which both I and President Rajapaksa had agreed during my visit last year." Ban declined to provide any further description of the panel or when he will name its members. Transcript here and below; video here.

Inner City Press also asked about the acknowledgement over the weekend by Sri Lanka's foreign minister that he has sought a UN job for his son.

  While the same sources who first told Inner City Press about the minister's letter say it was addressed to Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, Ban replied that he is unaware of the request. He said that the UN has transparent recruitment procedures, an assertion that many dispute, including as to the children and sons in law of the top UN officials.

UN's Ban depicted shaking with presidential brother Basil Rajapaksa, under the gun

Here is the UN's transcript of the Q & A:

Inner City Press: Mr. Secretary-General, late last week you spoke with the President of Sri Lanka, and said that you are going to name a panel, to advise yourself, on accountability. Over the weekend, the President said that you had no right to do it and had a very different read-out of the call than we received, at least the way I hear it. Can you explain what the purpose of the Panel is and when you think you’re going to name it? And also the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, also over the weekend, confirmed that he sought a job for his son with the UN. I wonder if you think that is appropriate, and is such a job going to be given?

SG: As you said, I had a frank and honest exchange of views with President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa, Thursday night, last week, over issues that were of concern to both of us. This included moving forward on political reconciliation, further movement on the condition of internally displaced persons, and the establishment of an accountability process. I am concerned with the lack of progress of the joint statement which both I and President Rajapaksa had agreed during my visit last year. I raised this issue and discussed [it]. I made clear to President Rajapaksa that I intend to move forward on a Group of Experts which will advise me on setting the broad parameters and standards on the way ahead on establishing accountability concerning Sri Lanka. For that purpose, we have agreed that I dispatch [Under Secretary General of Political Affairs] Lynn Pascoe in the very near future.

Q: Do you think that it’s appropriate for the Foreign Minister of a country with which you are dealing with on possible war crimes to be seeking a job for his son with the UN?

SG: First of all, I am not aware of that particular case of job application of the Foreign Minister’s son. As a matter of fact, any

recruitment process will have to be dealt with in a most transparent and objective manner by the selection committee members. That is what the United Nations has been [using] as a principle.

 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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