Sri Lanka Panel's 4 Months Has Not Begun, Ban Gives In to Protest?
August 3 -- After Sri Lanka's May 2009 “bloodbath on the
beach” which killed thousands of civilians, it took UN Secretary
Ban Ki-moon more than a year to name a three person Panel of
Experts to merely offer advice on accountability.
On August 2, two
months after the assault on the Gaza flotilla which killed eight
civilians on the ship, Ban launches a four person Panel of Inquiry,
stating that its work formally started August 10, with a first report
in mid September, before the UN's annual General Debate.
on August 2 asked
Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky about the contrast
between the two panels, the speed with which Ban formed them, and
strangely narrow scope of his Sri Lanka panel:
Press: I didn’t know we were going to get into comparative
panels. But following up on the Bhutto discussion, some have
wondered about comparing panels, comparing this to the Sir Lanka
panel, which is three people instead of four.
Why did I think you were going to go there?
Press: Yeah, yeah. The question is, I guess, it hasn’t
started yet, due to staffing, I’m told. And so I wonder how can
you explain the difference of the speed — I mean, the speed should
be, in all cases, I would assume — what would you say that to those
who say it took a year to name one in Sri Lanka and it still hasn’t
begun due to some staffing issues, whereas this one you’ve said
when it’ll start, when it’ll report…
You’re saying there are staffing issues; I have not. And, that’s
the first… [talkover]. The first thing is, as you know, they [the
Sri Lanka panel] have already met, and they are looking at exactly
how they will work. They have a Chief of Staff, we’ve already
named him, as you know. That person is already working with the
three experts. So, that’s the first thing. The second thing is,
in all of these cases, where you’re setting up an inquiry, a panel
of experts, or whatever else you want to call it, this involves
careful groundwork and diplomacy. And, this can take, in some cases,
a long time; in some cases, it can take less time. You can’t
compare one to another. This is how diplomacy works.
if a country
complains loudly enough, leading up to blocking UN staff inside their
building, then Ban Ki-moon's UN will move slowly and cautiously on
war crimes, apparently. What is the message to countries like Sudan
Colombo, June 7, 2010: blocking UN staff
leads to delay, start of 4 mo clock not shown
to have already learned the lesson: they
have announced that UN staff in
Darfur must now give prior notice
before traveling the road, and will have their bags searched in the
to the still
unclear Sri Lanka panel timing, Inner City Press
Press: has the four-month clock started? When did it start?
As we’ve said, you have the experts and you have the support team. The
support team is working in the background. The experts will be
meeting again in the coming weeks, and that is part of the process,
part of their work as they’ve been mandated to do so by the
Press: When does the four-month clock start?
I’ll let you know. So, I’m happy to take any other questions on
this, but is this on the panel?
proud of his Gaza panel, going so far as to interview himself -- or
have UN Radio do it - in a mock “stakeout” in his North Lawn
building office. Then he flew off to Japan.
City Press' report
that Mahinda Rajapaksa is listed as Sri Lanka's
speaker in September's general debate, unprompted letters copied to
Inner City Press have invited Ban's panel's three members to be sure
to interview Rajapaksa at that time. We'll see.
weekend, we noted that the Sri Lankan Mission to the UN's
embattled and outgoing Deputy Permanent Representative might be
providing some views early this week. He had formally
invited Inner City Press to “lunch at the Sri Lankan restaurant”
on August 2.
the Mission wrote to Inner City Press saying the DPR was “indisposed”
and unable to attend, that it might be rescheduled. As it happens,
the PR is throwing a farewell to his deputy on August 3, at a non-Sri
Lankan restaurant on Third Avenue by the UN and Mission. To this,
Inner City Press has yet to be included among the invitees.
Interesting list that must be. Watch this site.
* * *
Sri Lanka Panel Stalled on Staffing, Rajapaksa's RSVP for September,
Rice and Kyrgyz Constrasts
August 1 -- The UN's panel of
experts on Sri Lanka war
crimes and accountability has still not officially begun its work.
Inner City Press is told that the hang up is the staffing
for the panel. It has been confirmed that the initial plan was for
the chief of staff to be Jessica Neuwirth, close ally and friend of
UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay.
alleging, at best, nepotism it was decided to switch to Richard
Barrett, a staffer without similar connections. The fig leaf now is
that Neuwirth's time on a UN system contract had expired -- true,
that was the reason to find her a new job -- and that she is now a
“consultant.” With the UN or its Human Rights Commission? That's
a separate inquiry.
itself, its four month time line does not begin until it is fully
staffed. So are the three experts not yet working, then? If so, did
they start getting paid by the UN when they
met at the UN back in
July or not? The hotel rooms -- “at UN rates” -- were certainly
paid by the UN. So it is hard to argue they are not yet working for
schedule for its upcoming General Debate in September, Mahinda
Rajapaksa is listed as attending. If he does, this would be a perfect
time for the panel to interview him. His embattled minister of
external affairs G.L. Peiris has already said the panel will not get
visa to visit Sri Lanka. So let Mahinda cooperate with the panel
while he is in New York. If, that is, he comes to New York.
Ambassador Yuki Takasu, when asked on July 27 by Inner City Press to
describe innovations during his time in charge of the Security
Council's working methods, listed the Council's informal basement
meetings on Sri Lanka, in the final stages of the conflict.
level of civilian killing, it is still not clear what those meetings
accomplished. But now even Japan, through foreign minister Okada, has
urged Sri Lanka to cooperate with the UN panel. Will it?
on July 27
at Takasu's farewell reception at his residence, Sri Lanka's
Permanent Representative worked the crowd, including his U.S.
counterpart Susan Rice. Ambassador
Rice has claimed, contrary to her
State Department colleague on Sudan Scott Gration, that
accountability for war crimes is at the top of the Administration's
agenda. Sri Lanka is a test.
Mahinda and Wimal Weerawansa, UN in September not shown
only of Ambassador Rice and Ban Ki-moon but others to this mere Sri
Lanka panel stands in contrast to the unequivocal way the UN says it
will participate in any independent international investigation into
the causes of the recent violence in Southern Kyrgyzstan. From last
transcripts, first of July 26:
Press: On Kyrgyzstan, the OSCE [Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe] Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative,
Kimo Kiljunen, he said there’s going to be an investigation
conducted by his organ… by a commission, international commission,
of the violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. And he also said that the
United Nations would be involved in the commission. So, I wanted to
know, is that the case? What will be the United Nations role in an
international investigation of the causes of violence in southern
Nesirky: Let me find out. Just a general point, the OSCE
Parliamentary Assembly is not the same thing as the OSCE itself, as
I’m sure you understand. So we would need to see precisely what
the composition, the intended composition, would be. But the other
more general point is that we’ve said already that there should
be an independent investigation into the events that took place in
Osh and Jalalabad and in the south of Kyrgyzstan. So let me get
back to you on that, okay?
nothing back, Inner City Press asked
again on July 30:
Press: you’d said you would find out, and I wanted to ask
whether you have. One is, what is the UN’s role in any possible
investigation into the causes of violence in southern Kyrgyzstan?
Nesirky: As I mentioned to you, that is a work in progress
amongst different international organizations. It is being actively
looked at, and I know that my colleagues in the Department of
Political Affairs are keeping a close eye and talking to their
colleagues, as is Mr. Jenca, the Special Representative for Central
Asia, Miroslav Jenca. No firm words yet. But, as I’ve said to you
before, this is an area where we have been very closely watching. And
not just watching, but involved in bringing people together,
monitoring and reporting what’s been happening...
on Sri Lanka?
Mission to the UN's outgoing Deputy Permanent Representative, who
came in with a flurry of accusatory letters and leaves accused
himself of sexual harassment of a Mission staffer, may be providing
some views early this week. We hope they are on the record. Watch
* * *
Panel Holds 1st Meeting in NYC, "Doesn't Need UN Permission" for
Colombo Visit, of Darusman Fees and Sea Bass
19 -- The UN Panel on Accountability in Sri Lanka began
to meet on July 19, Inner City Press can report. This starts the four
month time line for them to produce a report, at least on the
compliance of Sri Lanka's “Lessons Learnt” panel with
international standards for inquiries into war crimes.
1:30 pm on July
19, panel members Marzuki Darusman, Yasmin Sooka and Steven Ratner
met in the UN's North Lawn building. At that moment, at latest, the
four month clock began.
chit chatting about
what hotels they are staying in and where to go to dinner, Ratner
noted that since UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky said it would be up to
the panel whether to seek to visit Sri Lanka, “we don't have to ask
the UN's permission.”
government has already said it
will deny visas, which Darusman called “unfortunate.”
Press has previously reported, and has now further confirmed with
colleagues in Colombo, Sri Lankan government sources are pitching the
tale of Darusman bickering about fees for his prior position on a Sri
Lankan panel when it disbanded.
motives of such pitches are
clear, less clear is why the Ban Ki-moon administration or one of its
advisers would have given the Rajapaksas such an easy issue to work
with. We will have more on this.
July 19, Darusman said he was just in from Jakarta. Ratner, in from Ann
Arbor, Michigan, noted that
the UN listed hotels, that the UN will pay for, don't in fact have a
UN rate. The Bentley, he said, is still not too expensive.
a discussion of the more expensive Millennium Hotel, and of meeting
over dinner in the Italian restaurant across the street.
UN's Ban, Nambiar and Haysom, permission to travel
to Sri Lanka not shown
It is Padre
Figlio; inquiry by Inner City Press mid-day Monday found $86
Porterhouse steak on the menu. (In fairness, it is for two. A single
portion of Chilean sea bass costs $32).
the Department of Political Affairs of Lynn Pascoe, the panel was set
to meet with Nicholas “Fink” Haysom at 2 pm. They were then
observed, at 3:17 p.m., leaving the UN campus and entering the DC-1
building, with the Millennium Hotel, at 3:20 pm. The four month time
clock, and expense accounts, have begun.
* * *
Include Steven Ratner and Yasmin Sooka of S. Africa,
Reconciliation or Accountability?
On Sri Lanka war crimes, sources tell Inner City
Press that the three names including not only former Indonesian
attorney general Darusman but also American lawyer Steven Ratner, and
South Africa's Yasmin Sooka, who served on that country's Truth and
Reconciliation Commission, who was proposed by Ban advisor Nicholas
Haysom, also of South Africa.
and contrary to unsourced reports in the Colombo press, there will be
no Austrian on the panel.
tour" to Sri Lanka last May, during
which interned Tamil children were forced to sing for him in the
Vuvuniya camp, surrounded by barbed wire, Ban has hounded by calls to
follow through on his and Mahinda Rajapaksa's statement at the end of
March 5, Ban
said he would name a panel to advise him "without delay." Now, belated,
he is slated to name the panel this week.
Sri Lanka's banner of UN Ban, with gun, Vavuniya camps
Sri Lanka is
lashing out in advance, even as their ambassador to the UN Palitha
Kohona chairs an international investigation panel about the Occupied
Palestinian Territories. Can you say, hypocrisy?
also been named by Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar as having
provided assurances that surrendering LTTE leaders would be treated in
accordance with international law -- before they were killed. Kohona
disputes the timing of his communications with Nambiar. Watch this site.
for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters
footage, about civilian
in Sri Lanka.
Click here for Inner City
Press' March 27 UN debate
Click here for Inner City
Press March 12 UN (and AIG
Click here for Inner City
Press' Feb 26 UN debate
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.
* * *
usually also available through Google
News and on Lexis-Nexis.
for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
some are available
in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.
reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at]