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At UN on Sri Lanka, Ban's Inaction on Report Contrasted With Rwanda Mapping

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 20 -- When the UN Panel of Experts recommended to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that he establish an investigative mechanism for war crimes in Sri Lanka, Ban responded that he'd only do so upon a vote of one of the UN's three “inter-governmental bodies.”

  Ban's claimed powerlessness, however, was called into question this week on the margin of the Human Rights Council vote in the General Assembly.

  It was pointed out that when for example the UN did an investigation of abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the so-called Mapping Report with much information about Rwanda, it had not waited for any vote by the HRC, GA or Security Council.

  Ban, it was said by contrasted, wants to say he can or will only act on tens of thousands of civilians' deaths if one of the three bodies makes him. “Some leadership,” a expert in UN legal practice based in Geneva told Inner City Press.

  At the UN's May 20 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky to respond to this criticism, as well as to a published report in Sri Lanka that Ban has already negotiated away the Panel of Experts' recommendations in a closed door meeting with Sri Lankan Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona.

  Nesirky tried to limit the questioning by insisting “last question,” then saying he would revert with information about the mapping report, which had not happened more than five hours later.

Ban portrayed in Sri Lanka with Basil Rajapaksa & gun

From the UN's May 20 transcript:

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Matthew, last question.

Inner City Press: Well, I don’t know, I have a couple.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, a last question; you can choose.

Inner City Press: well… There is an article in the Sri Lankan press that reports, and maybe you will just deny this one, in which case, I hope to have, to ask you about a protest that was held outside yesterday. But there is an article in the Sri Lankan press saying that the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, and Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona, have substantively discussed the Panel of Experts report and the forthcoming, now delayed, LLRC [Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission], and have come to an agreement; that there is some agreement reached, which recommendations would be implemented by Sri Lanka, which ones would not be, and that essentially the matter is finished. I can, I mean, the article, it is in [inaudible]; and I wonder whether the UN, given that it’s apparently, its’ summarizing a meeting between the two, is this accurate or not accurate?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, as you know, we’ve been very clear; the report has been published in its entirety. You can see the recommendations that there are there, and the Secretary-General stands by the report that’s been prepared for him by the Panel of Experts. That’s the first point. The second is that we have repeatedly said in the run-up to the report being published, and after the report was published, that the Government of Sri Lanka is welcome to provide its response, its official response, to the report. And we would welcome that. We haven't seen it yet.

Inner City Press: This is related to that. Yesterday, in connection with this Human Rights Council vote today, it was said that the Secretary-General does have the power to begin his own investigative mechanism of a sort, and that this was the UN system’s — the report they did on Rwanda, the mapping report — that this was a report that was done by the UN system without authorization by any intergovernmental body. Is that accurate?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, as you know, we’ve been quite clear on that. Firstly, accountability is for the national authority in any given case. And in this case, it is no different: accountability is for the Sri Lankan authorities. We’ve also said that, in this report on accountability that was given to the Secretary-General, it sets out that the Sri Lankan authorities should indeed be doing this. It also says that — and the Secretary-General said this in his statement with the report — that there needs to be, to take it forward, there needs to be either consent from the national Government, the national authorities — in other words the Sri Lankan authorities — or there needs to be a mandate from an intergovernmental body; and you know what they might be. And that’s the position.

Inner City Press: So the mapping report, which intergovernmental body authorized it?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I can give you the details on that later.

But five hours later and counting, no information had been provided. Watch this site.

* * *

On Sri Lanka, Ban Claims UN Couldn't Assess Casualties, Leak Shows UN Did

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 27 -- On Sri Lanka, UN “staff were not in the position to assess” the number of casualties in 2009, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky told the Press on April 27, as they had to withdraw because the Government said security could not be guaranteed.

But as Inner City Press reported and published on March 27, 2009, a detailed UN document it obtained reported that the "minimum number of documented civilian casualties since 20 January 2009, as of 7 March 2009 in the conflict area of Mullaitivu Region [is] 9,924 casualties including 2,683 deaths and 7,241 injuries.”

Click here for the leaked document, and here for Inner City Press' report which exclusively published it.

Ban's UN refused to confirm its own Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs casualty figures. It now appears, including based on statements by staff who have since left the UN, that Ban's UN consciously decided to withhold and once leaked deny the casualty information it WAS in the position to compile.

Nesirky on April 27, when Inner City Press followed up on questions it put to Ban the previous day, said that this topic and others will now be reviewed by the UN, by Ban and his senior advisers.

Inner City Press asked Nesirky if Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, who was involved in the White Flag killings which appear in the UN report at Paragraph 171, will be one of the senior advisers involved in the review.

“There are many senior advisers,” Nesirky said, adding that the review “will look at the full range of topics contained” in the report.

The question remains: should a senior adviser like Nambiar be allowed to play any role in the review of an incident he was involved in? The answer should have been, and should be, no -- but hasn't been.

Inner City Press asked if this review will be made public. Nesirky would not say, but acknowledged that there is a public interest in it. With 40,000 civilians reportedly killed, yes there is a public interest.

Amazingly, after Ban said he “is advised” that the report's recommendations can only be investigated if the Rajapaksa government consents or members states vote for it in an intergovernmental forum, Ban when he reported on Sri Lanka to the UN Security Council on April 26 did not even ask them to schedule a vote on the recommendation for an investigation of war crimes. We'll have more on this.

From the Panel of Experts report:

The "White Flag" incident

170. Various reports have alleged that the political leadership of the LTTE and their dependents were executed when they surrendered to the SLA. In the very final days of the war, the head of the LTTE political wing, Nadesan, and the head of the Tiger Peace Secretariat Pulidevan, were in regular communication with various interlocutors to negotiate surrender. They were reportedly with a group of around 300 civilians. The LTTE political leadership was initially reluctant to agree to an unconditional surrender, but as the SLA closed in on the group in their final hideout, Nadesan and Pulidevan, and possibly Colonel Ramesh, were prepared to surrender unconditionally. This intention was communicated to officials of the United Nations and of the Governments of Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as to representatives of the ICRC and others. It was also conveyed through intermediaries to Mahinda, Gotabaya and Basil Rajapaksa, former Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona and senior officers in the SLA.

171. Both President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Basil Rajapaksa [sic?] provided assurances that their surrender would be accepted. These were conveyed by intermediaries to the LTTE leaders, who were advised to raise a white flag and walk slowly towards the army, following a particular route indicated by Basil Rajapaksa.[sic?]  Requests by the LTTE for a third party to be present at the point of surrender were not granted. Around 6.30 a.m. on 18 May 2009. Nadesan and Pulidevan left their hide-out to walk towards the area held by the 58th Division, accompanied by a large group, including their families. Colonel Ramesh followed behind them, with another group. Shortly afterwards, the BBC and other television stations reported that Nadesan and Pulidevan had been shot dead. Subsequently, the Government gave several different accounts of the incident. While there is little information on the circumstances of their death, the Panel believes that the LTTE leadership intended to surrender.

  On the morning of April 21, Inner City Press asked Ban's top two spokesmen to "please state the role of Mr. Nambiar in reviewing the report." No response has yet been received, more than 60 hours later. We will have more on this. 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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