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Sri Lanka Trashes UN Blacking Out Ban Ki-moon on Giving Space to Rajapaksas, 2 Views

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 23 -- Twelve days after the UN released a redacted version of its Charles Petrie report into its actions and inactions during the killings in Sri Lanka in 2009, that country's Rajapaksa government belatedly responded -- in part by criticizing the redactions.

   When the reported was issued with portions blacked out, Inner City Press asked why. Next, it posted all of the redacted material -- it was as easy as copying the excised portions and pasting them into a word processing document.

   Then on November 12, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Susana Malcorra to justify a particular redaction, in Paragraph 173, in which Ban said  "the Government should be given the political space to develop a domestic mechanism."

   Malcorra responded tersely that this was "twisting," and claimed that all redactions were either for staff safety or to retain the ability to deliberate. It seems Ban would cite the latter to black out his subordinates' advice -- but his own orders?

   And so while Inner City Press agrees, for once, with Sri Lanka's government that the redactions are wrong, there is a difference. The Rajapaksa government maintains that lines like Ban's were blacked out because, revealed, they make the Sri Lanka government look good.

   Our view, however, continues to be that Ban's quote was taken it because it makes him look bad. He did not push for accountability, as he has done -- with more Western backing -- elsewhere such as in Syria.

   The proof of this is the redaction of an opinion then former top UN humanitarian John Holmes, advising that the term "war crimes" not be used. This makes Holmes look bad, and perhaps explains him emerging from his sinecure in the British countryside to defend Ban's UN and himself.

  Inner City Press has re-posted the report as it appeared with redactions, and has gone behind the redactions. Here from Paragraph 173, the material the UN blacked out, but is now being "liberated" by Inner City Press, appears in brackets, followed by an explanation.

"the Secretary-General met with President Rajapaksa and urged him 'to uphold his commitment to establish an accountability process.' On 30 July the Policy Committee met again at UNHQ to address 'follow-up on accountability' in Sri Lanka. [Discussing whether or not the SecretaryGeneral should establish an international Commission of Experts, many participants were reticent to do so without the support of the Government and at a time when Member States were also not supportive. At the same time, participants also acknowledged that a Government-led mechanism was unlikely to seriously address past violations. The Secretary-General said that 'the Government should be given the political space to develop a domestic mechanism and that only if this did not occur within a limited time frame would the UN look at alternatives.] The meeting agreed"

  So Ban Ki-moon, even after being advised that a Sri Lankan "Government-led mechanism was unlikely to seriously address past violations," said Rajapaksa should be given more space -- and time.

  And as of November 2012, no one had been held accountable. In fact, one of the General most associated, including in Ban's report, with the killings in 2009, Shavendra Silva, was accepted by Ban Ki-moon as a UN "Senior Adviser on Peacekeeping Operations."

  (Ban told Inner City Press that this was a decision of member states; his head of Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous outright refused to answer this or any other Press question.)

   On September 6, 2011, Silva appeared with Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona at a film screening in the UN's Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium, fallout written up by the SLC, here.

   Inner City Press waited to write this story until more than eight hours went by from submitting two simple questions to Ban's top three spokespeople on November 23, a workday at the UN in New York:

"Please provide the Secretariat's response to Sri Lanka Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement earlier today, including that the material redacted showed, in at least one case, the Secretary General on the side of the Sri Lankan government ( The Secretary General said that the Government should be given the political space to develop a domestic mechanism"), and

'the alleged intimidation of UN staff for delivery of humanitarian assistance is completely baseless, a position which has been endorsed by the former United Nations USG for Humanitarian Affairs.' [John Holmes]."

   Ban's spokesman forwarded other Inner City Press questions submitted at the same time to the spokesman for UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, Kieran Dwyer.

  But no acknowledgment, much less answer, was provided in eight hours to the above question. When and if there is a UN response, we will publish it. For now, here are the other deletions, and the Executive Summary which the UN removed. Watch this site.

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