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At UN, Of Sri Lankan Letters Lost, Tamil Tiger Cards Revoked, Sexed-Up Peacekeepers

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

UNITED NATIONS, September 6 -- Amid the conflict in Sri Lanka, the UN receives and then loses a letter of complaint, allows in then disaccredits Tamil Tiger representatives, and leaves tales of peacekeeper sexual abuse unresolved.  On September 5, Inner City Press asked a senior UN official present at the UNESCO conference in Paris about the exclusion of three attendees later linked with the Tamil Tigers. This official, the director of the Outreach Division of the UN's Department of Public Information Eric Falt, responded quickly by email from Paris:

Early on the second day of the conference, we realized that an error had been committed during the registration process, whereby three representatives of [the Tamil Center for Human Rights] TCHR had been mistakenly accredited for the conference. For your information, any NGO wishing to participate must be formally accredited with either DPI, or ECOSOC, or UNESCO (where we are meeting) or OHCHR (since the conference focuses on human rights).

This was not the case of TCHR and, therefore, on the second day, two of their representatives were prevented from entering the UNESCO premises and their badges were withdrawn. The third person had already entered but was certainly never "ejected" (To the best of my knowledge, he did not come back to UNESCO premises on the third day).

Please be informed also that the Chair of the conference, Shamina de Gonzaga, was not responsible for this decision. Since this issue falls under the responsibility of DPI, we took the decision in close consultation with all our UN partners (Ms. de Gonzaga was however informed and had no objection).

  One wonders if of all the conference attendees, there were not others who for whatever reason were not members of formally accredited NGOs. DPI's online "Rules of Engagement" call for participants to "discuss challenges and ways to overcome them." But it appears that the subsequently disaccredited individuals were linked to the Tamil Tigers by an email from an individual who requested -- and is granted -- anonymity, directed to Ms. Hanifa Mezoui, New York-based Chief of the UN's NGO Section. Then again, a Tiger-affiliated web site, which headlines a charge of "state terrorism" of the type that is apparently to be excluded from the UN's symposium on the victims of terrorism on September 9, bragged of TCHR's participation in the conference, on which we will have more to report.

News muse: In a run-up press conference about the Paris confab on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by UNESCO and the UN Department of Public Information, Ms. de Gonzaga asked the Press for suggestions for getting the conference more news coverage. Inner City Press suggested that the conference relate the Declaration to current events, such as the conflicts in Georgia and Sudan. The UN representatives disagreed, taking a less newsy or time-sensitive approach. Video here.

  Then they disaccredited an insurgent side of a current conflict -- and made news. How does one say irony in Sri Lankan? What is known is that before the Island was called Ceylon, its name was Serendip, the root of the word serendipity...

Sri Lankan troops in Haiti, repatriated one-tenth, lost letter and revoked IDs not shown

  Earlier in the week on September, Inner City Press asked the UN about a letter reportedly sent to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by one Father James Pathinathan, described as the President of the Peace and Justice Commission in the Wanni. The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told Inner City Press, that's a question for the Spokesperson for the Secretary General. So Inner City Press asked the OSSG, whose deputy then said that the letter was received and passed on to OCHA. But later on September 5, OCHA told Inner City Press that such a letter was never "logged in." So complaints from Sri Lanka also get lost in the mail.

  Complaints against Sri Lanka, or at least Sri Lankan peacekeepers, are also made to disappear or be forgotten. When one-tenth of the Sri Lankan contingent in the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti were charged with sexual abuse and exploitation, they were sent back to Sri Lanka. The then-acting chief of the UN's Department of Field Support Jane Holl Lute has said this represented "zero tolerance." But there has been no follow-through or follow-up, certainly no update on what discipline, if any, was imposed back in Sri Lanka. So for now the more accurate phrase appears to be "zero follow-through."

   While Sri Lanka's presentation at the 2007 UN General Assembly was surreal, perhaps in the GA starting later this month these questions will be answered. In between the two GAs, the country ran for the UN Human Rights Council and was roundly trounced. Bad karma?

Watch this site. And this (on South Ossetia), this, on Russia-Georgia, and this --


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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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