Sri Lanka, UN Soft Pedals Humanitarian Law, Still No War Crimes
Panel for Ban Ki-moon after Gota Rajapaksa Threats
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, May 9, updated -- On
Sri Lanka, more than two months after UN Secretary General
Ban Ki-moon said he would name a group
of expert to advise him on
possible war crimes, still no panel has been named. Now, the
Rajapaksa government of Sri Lanka has announced its own "mechanism."
Ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona told Inner City Press he advised
Colombo to better publicize the "mechanism." He predicted
that Ban will never actually name a panel. He asked, smiling, "For
what? For money?"
on May 7 asked Ban's spokesman about the panel, and his top
humanitarian official John Holmes about restrictions placed by the
government, including its rejection of the UN Common Humanitarian
Action Plan, which has blocked non governmental organizations from
providing assistant in Vavuniya, about the lack of access to those in
"rehabilitation" camps, even by the Red Cross, and other
restrictions on NGOs. Video here,
from Minute 39:09.
careful answer several times called relations with the Rajapaksa
government "difficult" but still tried to make it seem
fine, that for example over 10,000 people have been incarcerated
without trial or visit for more than a year. He noted that the
government threw the Red Cross out of parts of the country, and said
he "hoped" they could return, including so that donor money
could flow for "decent rehabilitation."
the number in the "rehabilitation" camps at 11,000 to
12,000. He said there are still 80,000 in IDP camps, and some 220,000
"returnees." He did not note how few of them could vote,
although he seemed to use the elections as the excuse for the lack of
humanitarian access. Video here,
from Minute 42:24.
UN's Holmes, humanitarian access and war crimes
panel not shown
City Press asked
UN Spokesperson Martin Nesirky about the
City Press: number of days since the Secretary-General said he was
forming this panel to advise him on war crimes in Sri Lanka. In the
last 24 hours the Defense Minister, Gotabaya
Rajapaksa, has said that
anyone that would seek to testify about war crimes by the Sri Lankan
Government should be put to death. It’s a capital offense and it’s
treason. So I am wondering: this seems like a pretty extreme
position in the light of international justice trying to collect
evidence of war crimes anywhere. What’s the response to that and
what does this “no delay” thing mean now that the panel formation
Nesirky: Well the “no delay” thing means what it says. There is
no delay. The Secretary-General is pushing ahead with putting
together the panel of experts that we’ve talked about a number of
times, here and elsewhere. Not only the panel, but the terms of
reference; that is being actively worked on. There is no delay. Okay.
City Press: And then there is no comment on Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s
comment that anyone that [interrupted]
Not at the moment, no.
Update: as quoted
Sri Lankan promoting an agenda which is detrimental to the country is
nothing but a traitor...," said Gotabhaya [Rajapaksa to Sri Lank's The
Island newspaper, published May 6]."Traitors
deserve capital punishment."
has conveyed, to the most senior UN officials, how conclusively lame
it would appear if Ban never even named this long promised panel to
advise himself on possible war crimes in Sri Lanka. It is understand
that Ban himself heard this on May 7. Some say the
announcement is near. It has already been far too long.
* * *
On Sri Lanka, As UN's
Ban Delays on Panel, Pascoe's Trip Delayed For "Goodies"
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, May 5 -- Two months after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
said he would form "without delay" a panel of experts to
advise him on possible war crimes in Sri Lanka, still no such panel
has been named.
In the interim, the UN has said that Under Secretary
General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe will travel to Sri Lanka.
But that has not happened or even been nailed down yet.
official told Inner City Press on May 5 that they think Sri Lanka is
putting off the trip so that they can put certain things in place and
show "goodies" to the UN. Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN
Palitha Kohona continues to predict that Ban will never go forward
and name the panel. "Ask them why they would name a panel,"
Kohona has urged Inner City Press, "for anything more than
has put Kohona's question to the senior UN official, who while not
confirming that the panel idea is dead or dying, said the UN is happy
to think that improvements are being made under the shadow of a
visit. In fact, Inner City Press was told that an Austrians national
was approached about being on the panel. But two month are two
UN's Ban and Pascoe in Uzbekistan, Lankan follow
through not shown
Lanka itself, the Red Cross still does not have access to the
so-called rehabilitation centers, and there are whispers of a slew of
babies being born to women who were in government detention nine
The IMF has
delayed the next tranche of its loan, as the government has not
followed through on its commitments.
CHAP was rejected by presidential
brother Basil Rajaksa, NGOs complain. They do not complain loudly,
threatened as they are with expulsion from the country. Watch this
transcript of its April 30 noon briefing:
City Press: This is, it’s
now been seven weeks since the Secretary-General said that without
delay a panel of group of experts would be named to advise him on
accountability in Sri Lanka. It was also said that Mr. [B. Lynn]
Pascoe would be visiting the country. Has a request for Mr. Pascoe
to visit been made, and what progress, if any, has there been on
naming this group of experts?
Nesirky: A visit
by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, is
in the works and is likely to take place fairly soon. We don’t
have a date yet, but it’s in, if you like, an active planning
phase. So that’s to answer the first point. The second point: the
Secretary-General has made clear that this panel of experts will
be put together without delay, and I know that that is indeed the
case. People are working actively on putting that panel together. It is
not complete yet, and neither are the terms of reference. But
active work is being done on this and the Secretary-General is very
clear that there will be no delay. But it needs to be done properly.
Watch this site.
* * *