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As UN Rights Expert Decries Sri Lankan Camps, OCHA Funds Them, Of Recruitment and Targeting

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, March 16 -- The UN's expert on the human rights of internally displaced people Walter Kalin on Friday said of the camps the Sri Lankan government is setting up just outside its conflict zone with the Tamil Tigers that "while security screenings may be conducted upon arrival, they should be concluded promptly and individuals retained only in accord with judicial process and on the basis of individualized suspicion."

  Three days later, the UN's top humanitarian John Holmes confirmed that while the UN is and will be funding these camps, those interred are not even allowed to receive visits from their families and friends. When Inner City Press cited the UN's expert on IDP's statement about the camps, Holmes said that once the "registration process" is completed and "temporary IDs" are issued, if there is still no freedom of movement, "serious questions will arrive on the point you're raising." Video here, from Minute 37:15.

  So what did the UN's Walter Kalin mean by "promptly" concluding security screenings? If one is detained while a government undertakes registration and issuance of ID cards, is it still a security screening?

   In a March 14 press conference, Sri Lanka's Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe bragged that the $155 million the UN is raising for Sri Lanka has already been programmed. Inner City Press on March 16 asked Holmes if this money will go for the detention camps that the UN's own Walter Kalin has criticized. Yes, Holmes said, some of those project assist those in the camps. So is the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, far from providing guidance about compliance with principles, actually funding violations of international humanitarian law?

UN expert Kalin in Sri Lanka -with Human Rights Minister, camps not shown

  Holmes and OCHA were seen by some as likewise failing to provide guidance Monday with respect to Darfur, click here for that story. In a move reminiscent of Sudan, the UN in Colombo has been threatened with targeted protests if any move is made to bring war crimes indictments of the Sri Lankan government. Perhaps in a desire to placate that government, the UN on Monday loudly decried what it called the forcible recruitment of one of its national staff members by the Tamil Tigers.

   While forcible recruitment is certainly to be condemned, later on Monday when asked for a total count of abducted UN staff worldwide, the UN replied with the number eight: three in Niger, Robert Fowler and his colleagues; the UNHCR worker in Pakistan, and four workers in Somalia, who have since been released. So according to the UN, these forcible recruitments do not constitute abduction.

Note: even supporters of the Sudanese government, it should be noted, do not target for harassment journalists asking questions about Sudan at, for example, the United Nations.  This tactic seems limited to supporters of the Sri Lankan government....

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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