Sri Lanka, UN Can't Say How Many Died, Nor
If Ban Called for Ceasefire
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, May 17 -- With the UN accused in Sri Lanka of funding
camps, ineffectual efforts at a ceasefire and leaving civilians to
fend for themselves, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman
Nesirky faced and dodged questions on Monday. He did not say how much
the UN spent on the internment camps, nor explain the UN's silence
after its estimate
of civilians deaths was leaked to Inner City Press
in March 2009.
Ban "made energetic efforts" to protect civilians. Inner
City Press asked if that included calling for a ceasefire, and if
not, why not. Video here,
from Minute 20:23. Nesirky simply repeated
the line about energetic efforts.
question about establishing an inquiry as he did after the killing of
150 people in Guinea, Nesirky insisted that Ban has been pursuing
accountability since his trip to Sri Lanka, and will "soon"
named a panel to advise him. But the trip was a full year ago. Only
on March 5, 2010 did Ban say he would name a panel "without
delay -- and ten and a half weeks later, he has not done so.
insisted there is no way to know how many civilians were killed. But
Inner City Press reported, and reminded Nesirky, that a leaked
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs document counted 2,684
civilians deathly only between January 20 and March 7, 2009.
City Press asked if the UN has other similar documents in its
possession, if so why they have not been released and will they be
released? Nesirky said he would look into it, but insisted that body
counts are almost impossible.
asked, if the UN produces casualty figures in for example Sudan and
the Congo, why not Sri Lanka? Video here,
from Minute 36:25.
UN's Pascoe and Holmes on May 22, 2009, response to
ICG not shown
said you cannot compare, it "depends on the circumstances."
One wanted to ask, depends on the political circumstances?
the UN and Ban backed down, in the view of many, in the face of push
back by Sri Lanka and certain of its allies which have a say in Ban
Ki-moon's second term. Recently Sri Lanka's Mission to the UN has
taken to trying to intimidate journalists, e-mailing abusive letters
even during the middle of the UN's noon briefings.
One wonders if the
Mission will do the same to all those journalists who asked about Sri
Lanka killing civilians during Monday's briefing: from France,
Lebanon (comparing Sri Lanka to Sudan) and the Balkans (comparing Sri
Lanka to Srebrenica). We'll see.
Sri Lanka, ICG Calls for Investigation of UN Inaction, Ban Panel
Matthew Russell Lee
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
General Ban Ki-moon's "victory tour," has come
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."
mechanism -- dismissed by a slew of human rights groups -- an
"interesting development," but said that Ban is
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
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
though unlike ICG, under embargo until May 17.
UN's Ban, his HRC, Arbour and HR in background even then
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.
* * *
Sri Lanka War Crimes, US' Rice Supports UN's Ban, So Panel Without
Matthew Russell Lee
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,
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
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.
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:
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.”
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
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?
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
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
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?
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
Do you support the Secretary General’s position?
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.
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.