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On Sri Lanka, ICG Calls for Investigation of UN Inaction, Ban Panel Still Delayed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 16 -- At the one year anniversary of Sri Lanka's bloodbath on the beach, the UN which pulled out of Kilinochchi before the slaughter, then funded internment camps for Tamils after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's "victory tour," has come under questioning.

  Inner City Press on May 14 asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky when Ban would follow through on his intention, announced on March 5, to name a panel of experts to advise him on the issue, and whether Ban's delay was now related to Sri Lanka's belated unveiling of its own "mechanism."

  Nesirky called the mechanism -- dismissed by a slew of human rights groups -- an "interesting development," but said that Ban is independent.

  Now, the International Crisis Group is calling for an inquiry into the UN's own behavior, for an inquiry into "the conduct of the UN during the last year of the conflict, examining 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."

  This is from an early copy of ICG's report to be released on May 17. [Full disclosure - the ICG report has a citation to Inner City Press.] ICG's President Louise Arbour said, "The scale of civilian deaths and suffering demands a response. Future generations will demand to know what happened, and future peace in Sri Lanka re-quires some measure of justice." Amnesty International has damning findings, though unlike ICG, under embargo until May 17.

UN's Ban, his HRC, Arbour and HR in background even then

   Meanwhile Sri Lanka's Mission to the UN attacks Inner City Press -- click here for coverage in Sri Lanka of the first leter of new Deputy Permanent Representative Bandula Jayasekera -- as Perm Rep Palitha Kohona lounged around in the General Assembly on May 14 waiting to speak about Somalia piracy. THe air was of impunity, as both Ban and GA President Ali Treki offer assurances of inaction to Kohona and the Rajapaksa administration. One can ask the UN to investigate Sri Lanka -- but who will investigate the UN?

From the UN's May 14 transcript

Inner City Press: A week ago, you’d said that the wheels were, are turning and fully, well-oiled for this visit by Mr. Pascoe to Sri Lanka. Has there been any progress on that? Because the most recent reporting from Colombo is that he won’t be going until June, and there seems to be a controversy of whether now Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General, will now await to see how this mechanism, late announced mechanism by the Rajapaksa Administration, how that works out before he moves forward and names his own panel. Is that, that seems to be inconsistent with this idea of no delay. Can you say if there is any relation between the mechanism announced last week by the Rajapaksa Administration and the Secretary-General’s 5 March stated goal to name his own panel?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: The Secretary-General remains committed to the panel of experts and setting it up without delay. That remains the case. And as for Mr. Pascoe’s visit, that’s being worked on. I can’t say exactly when it will be, because that’s still being worked on. But it’s in the works.

Inner City Press: And [inaudible] without delay is not changed by this announced mechanism? It’s not that it will be delayed until the mechanism is established?

Spokesperson Neskirky: Obviously, that is an interesting development. But it doesn’t impinge on the Secretary-General’s own stated aim of setting up a panel of experts which would report to him. It’s a separate matter. But, obviously, it’s an interesting development, the news that we’ve heard from Sri Lanka in the last few days on this separate internal, if you like, domestic undertaking. But the Secretary-General’s is a separate matter, as we have said.

We'll see. Watch this site.

* * *

On Sri Lanka War Crimes, US' Rice Supports UN's Ban, So Panel Without Delay?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 13 -- U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told the Press on Thursday, "the Secretary General has a very constructive and worthy interest in accountability inside Sri Lanka and we support his leadership in that regard." Video here, from Minute 8:46.

  For two months the Sri Lankan government has lobbied against UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's March 5 announcement he would "without delay" name a panel of experts to advise him about war crimes in the country.

  Last week, President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced the country's own "mechanism" to look at "lessons learned." When US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice on May 10 issued a statement welcoming and setting benchmarks for the Rajapaksas' mechanism, without mentioning Mr. Ban's proposal, it brought into question whether the U.S. supported Ban's move toward outside review.

  Inner City Press on May 11 sought comments from Ambassador Rice and the State Department, and from Human Rights Watch. The latter responded first, by way of Tom Malinowski, HRW's Washington Advocacy Director:

Sri Lanka has a long history of failed commissions of inquiry and there is no indication that this one will be any different. Everyone should be asking what happened to the committee Sri Lanka established in response to the October US State department report. The members of that inquiry were initially supposed to report in December 2009 and then in April, but nobody has heard from them since. The Sri Lankan government launches these efforts from time to time not because it wants to bring out the truth, but because it wants to delay calls for an international investigation. There is no reason to let this process play itself out again to its inevitable, inconclusive end before calling for an independent, international inquiry, which is realistically the only way forward.”

  On May 13, after Ambassador Rice spoke of positive developments in the UN Human Rights Council since the U.S. joined -- she did not mention the flip of the EU proposed resolution about the killing of civilians by Sri Lanka's government into one praising and demanding resources for the government -- she took four questions, about Libya, Iran and at the end, Sri Lanka.

US Rice and UN Ban, action on accountability not yet shown

  Inner City Press asked Ambassador Rice to clarify her May 10 statement -- does the U.S. support Ban Ki-moon's stated intention to without delay name a panel to advice him on war crime in Sri Lanka, or does the Sri Lankan mechanism replace that?

  "As I think you know, Matt, my statement didn't address that one way or another," Ambassador Rice began. Yours "is a different question. Why don't you ask that question, instead of asking me to reinterpret my statement?"

  The question re-asked, Ambassador Rice said that "the Secretary General has a very constructive and worthy interest in accountability inside Sri Lanka and we support his leadership in that regard." Video here, from Minute 8:46.

  From the US Mission's transcript:

Inner City Press: can you clarify your statement Monday on Sri Lanka. I just wanted to know, were you saying in that, does the U.S. support the Secretary General’s call to, without delay, appoint a panel to advise him on war crimes in Sri Lanka or was this saying that the Sri Lankan somehow replaces that?

Ambassador Rice: As I think you know, Matt, my statement didn’t address that one way or the other. It was a statement about the Commission that had been established within Sri Lanka, and I didn’t comment on the Secretary General.

Reporter: Do you support the Secretary General’s position?

Ambassador Rice: I think the Secretary General has a very constructive and worthy interest in accountability inside of Sri Lanka, and we support his leadership in that regard.

Ironically, a senior Ban administration official on May 11 told Inner City Press, in light of Ambassador Rice's statement, that Ban would now wait to see how the Sri Lankan mechanism developed before acting on his stated intention to name his own panel "without delay." Now what? What this site.

* * *

On War Crimes Experts, UN Waits for "Sham" Sri Lankan Panel, Hiding Behind Rice

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 11 -- The UN's statement on May 10 that on naming a panel of experts on war crimes in Sri Lanka Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's wheels are turning -- or spinning -- was amplified to Inner City Press on Tuesday by a senior Ban official. "Now they've come out with theirs," the UN official said, referring to the Rajapaksa administration's announcement of a "mechanism."

  "It will be a sham," the UN official continues. Inner City Press asked, but how long will it take the UN to reach that conclusion? The UN official shrugged. "They have to appoint the members." He paused. "Susan Rice did a very good thing," he said, referring to US Ambassador Rice's May 10 statement on Sri Lanka.

  "She welcomed it but listed expectations which they will never meet," the UN official said.

  Inner City Press asked the official, as it has now asked the US State Department, what ever came of the committee the Rajapaksa administration named in November 2009. The official shrugged. "There is an EU statement coming," he said.

  Earlier on May 11, as US Ambassador Susan Rice entered the Security Council for a meeting on terrorism sanctions, Inner City Press began to ask for a question about the statement issued in her name the previous day - what does it mean for the U.S.' support of Ban Ki-moon intention announced on March 5 to name a panel of experts to advice him on accountability in Sri Lanka?

  Ambassador Rice indicated she was busy. Later a genial Mission staffer came to asked what the question was -- Inner City Press rephrased it -- and said he would go in and get an answer. But leaving the Council along with Ambassador Rice, he said he'd have to check with the "Sri Lanka people."

   Hours later in the UN's North Lawn building he again promised an answer. But still as of close of business and deadline, none was provided. Inner City Press sent this and other questions to an Assistant Secretary of State in Washington. Watch this site.

UN's Ban and Susan Rice, experts on war crimes not shown

From the UN's May 10 transcript:

Inner City Press: There is a report in Sri Lanka that the visit of Lynn Pascoe has been delayed by the Government; that the request was made that it be in mid-May. The Government said no. Now dates in June have been proposed, and this article.. seems to link Pascoe’s visit with the appointment of this Panel of Experts to advise the Secretary-General on accountability -- meaning they wouldn’t be named until his visit. And now the visit, according to this, has been put off to June. Does the UN disagree with this portrayal? What is the connection between his visit and the naming of the panel? And is the visit not, in fact, going to take place in May despite the wheels that you described being motion?

UN Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Well, thank you for prompting me; the wheels are still in motion on both the visit by Mr. Pascoe…

Inner City Press: Does the Government have the brakes on your wheels?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, that’s for you to ask the Government of Sri Lanka. What I can tell you is that the UN wheels are definitely turning, and they’re well-oiled. And what they’re turning towards is, one, a visit by Mr. Pascoe, and, two, for the Panel of Experts that we’ve discussed many times here.

Inner City Press: This article says that there are some connections between the two; that that the panel would not be named before the visit is made. I have been told by the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka that, given changes on the ground there, no panel is needed and he predicts that no panel will be named. So, is there any connection at all between Mr. Pascoe’s visit and the naming of the panel that’s now been delayed more than two months? Or not been delayed; it’s been two months since it was announced it would happen.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, I don’t think that we should draw a line between the two or to see this as cause and effect. The visit and the composition and naming of the panel -- these are two separate matters.

Footnote: another reason clarification of Ambassador Rice's statement, is sought is the re-emergence in State Department of Samantha "Problem from Hell" Power, who wrote the -- well, a -- book on the lack accountability for war crimes. What does she think of the statement?


May 10, 2010


Statement by US Ambassador Susan E. Rice on Sri Lanka's Announcement of a Commission on Lessons Learned and Reconciliation

The U.S. Government welcomes President Rajapaksa's announcement of his intention to establish a Commission on Lessons Learned and Reconciliation to examine key aspects of the recently ended conflict in Sri Lanka and his acknowledgment in doing so that accountability for serious violations of international humanitarian law is a crucial pillar of national reconciliation and the rule of law. Experience in other countries has shown that commissions of inquiry can play a valuable role in advancing accountability when they are appropriately constituted and enjoy broad public support. Particularly important in this regard, broad experience has shown that to be effective in advancing accountability and reconciliation, commission members should be and be perceived as independent, impartial and competent; their mandate should enable them fully to investigate serious allegations of violations and to make public recommendations; commission members and potential witnesses must enjoy adequate and effective protection; the commission must receive adequate resources to carry out its mandate; and the Government should undertake to give serious consideration to its recommendations. We hope the commission will also reflect the desires and requests of the citizens of Sri Lanka, who were the primary victims of the conflict. Being responsive to their needs will be an important measure of the commission's success. In light of these general principles, we would welcome the Sri Lankan Government's commitment to give the Commission on Lessons Learned and Reconciliation a mandate to probe violations of international standards during the final stages of the conflict and to identify those responsible and, we would expect, to make appropriate public recommendations based on its findings.

And see,

 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

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