Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the Inner City to Wall Street to the United Nations

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

  Search Search WWW (censored?)

In Other Media-eg Nigeria, Zim, Georgia, Nepal, Somalia, Azerbaijan, Gambia Click here to contact us     .


Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


Follow us on TWITTER

Subscribe to RSS feed

Video (new)

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

As UN Ban Ki-moon Hosts Sri Lanka Peiris, Press Banned Even from Photo Op, "Turn That Camera Off"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 24, updated -- Not only on Sri Lanka and war crimes, but now on press freedom and access, the UN has hit a new low. Hours after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Inner City Press he "totally reject[s] all that kind of allegations" by the International Crisis Group of UN complicity in violation of international humanitarian law, Inner City Press was banned from the photo opportunity of Ban and Sri Lanka's visiting Minister of External Affairs G.L. Peiris.

  While a UN Security Officer demanded that Inner City Press turn off its video camera and leave, to go downstairs and have a dog sniff the camera, visible through the glass was Mr. Peiris and his entourage, and Ban advisor Nicholas Haysom. Coming out of the elevator was top Ban political advisor Lynn Pascoe. Inner City Press said, "I'm being blocked from even taking a phone." But Pascoe was gone.

  The photo op was on Ban's schedule and the day's Media Alert by the UN's Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, for 3:15 pm. After asking Ban about Sri Lanka and war crimes and publishing his answers-- that he rejected and then didn't know he'd denied the allegations -- Inner City Press at 2:48 pm in an abundance of caution told two MALU officials in their office over the UN's Dag Hammarskjold Library that it would be attending the 3:15 pm photo session.

  They said fine, that another staffer would be there. Inner City Press walked directly and briskly from the Library to the UN's new North Lawn Building, arriving at 3 pm. After waiting for the MALU staffer, Inner City Press telephoned MALU's office. No one answered the phone. Inner City Press left a voice mail reminding of its pre-announced desire to attend the photo op. Finally at 3:09, Inner City Press took an elevator up to Ban's third floor.

  There, one security office said it would be no problem, Inner City Press was known and could go in. But another, in charge of Post 500, told Inner City Press to step back and turn off the camera. Then he demanded that Inner City Press be escorted down to the first floor to wait for a bomb sniffing dog.

  This is ridiculous, more than one UN staffer remarked. Several UN audio visual correspondents have told Inner City Press this has never happened to them.

Photo not shown: not allowed

  When finally the canine handler came and say the small video and still camera, he laughed. The dog gave one sniff and Inner City Press was gestured upstairs. It was 3:18 pm.

  "It's over," Inner City Press was told. Ban must already been meeting with Peiris, Palitha Kohona and his Deputy who daily sends letters trying to intimidate from questions being asked.

  Earlier on Monday, Ban said that his 80 day delay in naming even a panel to advise him about Sri Lanka's dubious Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was not because of pressure from Sri Lanka. To have the journalist who has persistently asked Ban and his officials about their actions on and about Sri Lanka banned from even taking a photograph is, at least for now, a new low. Watch this site.

Update of 4:09 pm -- after 4 p.m., Minister Peiris, Kohona and his deputy came down on the elevator. Inner City Press asked, "What did Ban Ki-moon say?" Peiris looked away, and another correspondent remarked on how his entourage tried to wall him off. But this is how it's done at the UN: reporters shout -- in this case, say -- questions. Usually, exiting diplomats answer. Not this time. Not ready for prime time?

* * *

On UN Role in Sri Lanka War Crimes, Ban Rejects Then Denies Rejecting Allegations

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 24 -- "I totally reject all that kind of allegations," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Press on Monday, responding to a question about the UN's involvement in war crimes in Sri Lanka. Video here, from Minute 38:07.

Two minutes later, in response to a second question from Inner City Press, Mr. Ban said, "I rejected it? I don't know I ever said I reject it." Video here, from Minute 40:07.

  Inner City Press had initially asked Mr. Ban about the International Crisis Group report, which even in the Executive Summary calls for "an independent international inquiry into... the UN’s September 2008 withdrawal from Kilinochchi through to its ineffectual attempts to push for a ceasefire and its involvement in Sri Lankan government internment camps."

  Would the group of expert Ban committed eighty day ago to name to advise him have jurisdiction over the UN's own actions and inactions?

   Beyond "totally reject[ing]" ICG's criticism of the UN's and Ban's performance on Sri Lanka, Ban said that his panel would only address "international standards" applicable to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission belated announced by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

  To some, there was a parallel: Rajapaksa rejected any allegation that his soldiers killed civilians, before conducting any investigation. And at Monday's press conference, Ban Ki-moon totally rejected ICG's call for an "inquiry into... the UN’s September 2008 withdrawal from Kilinochchi through to its ineffectual attempts to push for a ceasefire and its involvement in Sri Lankan government internment camps."

   To these, Inner City Press added the issues raised by Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar's still murky role in encouraging the surrender of rebel leaders who were then summarily executed. Video here, from Minute 37:16.  In fairness, this may have thrown Ban off and led to the rejection then non-rejection.

   But the UN's own Special Rapporteur Philip Alston has asked the Rajapaksa government about this -- presidential brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been accused of ordering the killings -- but has yet to ask the UN's own Vijay Nambiar. Alston's mandate expires in June. So who will investigate? Especially after Ban's "total reject[ion of] all that kind of allegation"?

UN's Ban and Mahinda Rajapaksa, united- in "total rejection of allegations"

   After Ban announced his intention to name a group of experts "without delay," the Rajapaksa government protested, including seeking and obtaining -- albeit in a late, "non-objection" portion of a NAM meeting in New York -- a letter from the Non Aligned Movement that told Ban he had no jurisdiction over human rights.

  While some Ban advisors have said they disagree with the NAM letter's logic, the Ban Administration never publicly rebutted the reasoning. And now eighty days have passed without Ban naming even the group of experts.

  On Monday, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban why he has delayed these eighty days to pass. With Ban slated to meet with Sri Lanka's Minister of External Affairs G.L. Peiris later on May 24, he said that the delay was "not based on pressure of Sri Lanka."

  Reading from notes, Ban said he would discuss "accountability.. reconciliation... and improving the conditions" for people, nearly entirely Tamils, in the UN-funded camps. Ban and his advisors should know the G.L. Peiris has publicly refused to provide any timeline for resettling the people still in the camps, and he said that Ban should not even name his group of experts. Some ask where does Ban Ki-moon stands, does he reject or not remember rejecting?

Footnote: Inner City Press, which covered Ban's trip to Sri Lanka last May and has asked follow up questions at the UN since, had its request to Sri Lanka's Mission to pose questions to Minister Peiris ignored and thus denied. It was sent to Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona, a former UN staffer, but was not responded to. A Mission staffer said arrangements, including invitations to journalists who have never written about or been to Sri Lanka, were coordinated by Kohona's Deputy, who now sends Inner City Press repetitive and abusive e-mailed every day before the UN noon briefing. 
  On Monday, two Mission staffers shepherded G. L. Peiris around the UN on Monday, from BBC to Reuters, and then on to Ban Ki-moon. There is a 3:15 "photo opportunity" and Inner City Press has a right to be there. Watch this space.

* * *

As Sri Lanka Names Its Own Palihakkara as Investigator, UN Panel Would Not Look at UN's Role in War Crimes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 19 -- As witnesses testify that orders to execute prisoners came from the top of Sri Lanka's government, the UN on Wednesday couldn't confirm it is even following the issue. Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky about the much publicized report on UK Channel 4. "I would have to check with colleagues if they are aware" of the report, Nesirky said.

Inner City Press asked if the panel that Ban said ten and a half weeks ago would be named without delay would have jurisdiction to look into the UN's own role, described by the International Crisis Group, in war crimes in Sri Lanka. Video here, from Minute 11:12.

  No, Nesirky in essence replied. He said the panel would only "advise the Secretary General on the extent to which a domestic inquiry in Sri Lanka would meet normal standards." Thus, the delayed Ban panel would not, even if named, be responsive to the calls for investigation made by ICG, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others.

  On BBC, Louise Arbour of ICG said the government violated the laws of war by blurring the line between combatants and civilians, and that its killings of civilians were not accidents. Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka's Number One Ambassador to the UN who is apparently letting his Number Two run wild or play bad cop, said he had read the ICG report -- the UN has apparently not finished it -- but that any outside, independent investigation would be "colonial and paternalistic."

  But how could a panel now named by Mahinda Rajapaksa investigate war crimes claims made against his own brother? On the panel is Kohona's predecessor as Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN, H.M.G.S. Palihakkara, who defended the blood bath on the beach as it took loomed and took place. See video here (March 26), here (April 22, and Inner City Press' Q&A report), and here (June 5).

   Would the UN accept, for example, Sudan's UN Ambassador investigating claims against Omar al-Bashir?

UN's Ban and
Palihakkara- credible investigation not shown

  Against this backdrop, Nesirky has in two days not provided any of the answers he promised on Monday, including how much the UN spent on Sri Lanka's internment camps, and with what safeguards if any. There has still been no response from the IRIN or Ban's office to what's described as censorship of the ICG report by the UN's IRIN news service.

From the UN's May 19 transcript:

Inner City Press: on Sri Lanka, I wanted to ask, there is a report since our last interchange on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, citing senior military commanders, that there were orders from the top to kill surrendering soldiers or hardline elements of the Tamil Tigers, saying these orders came from the top, that “we were to leave no one alive”. What I am wondering is, in light of this still either delayed for 10 and a half weeks — however you characterize it — appointing of a panel to advise Ban Ki-moon on accountability in Sri Lanka, are they aware of this report? Does it make it go faster, and would that panel have jurisdiction to advise the Secretary-General on the UN’s own role in, as we discussed, leaving Kilinochi, an ineffective call for a ceasefire, and funding internment camps as ICG [International Crisis Group] has alleged?

Spokesperson: On the specific news report that you are referring to on Channel 4, I would have to check with colleagues whether they are aware of it. I do not know the answer to that right now. On the broader question, the Panel of Experts will have the role to advise the Secretary-General on what the standards are for a credible domestic investigation or inquiry. In other words, to address the question of accountability that has been discussed very often. So it is a very specific aim, to advise the Secretary-General on the extent to which a domestic inquiry — meaning in Sri Lanka — would meet normal standards, widely-held standards, for that kind of investigation. So it is fairly specific.

Inner City Press: And if you don’t mind, since on Monday, I think, you had said that the Secretariat was going study this International Crisis Group report, which actually made some allegations or called for an international inquiry into the UN’s own conduct. What is the UN’s response to that? Do they think that is appropriate? Given that this Panel would not even do that if named, what is the UN’s response to Louise Arbour and the ICG’s call for an inquiry into the UN’s own actions in this matter?

Spokesperson Nesirky: As I mentioned, and as you have pointed out, we said that it is being studied in some detail and that remains the case.

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

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

            Copyright 2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -