Sri Lanka, UN Won't Answer Questions, Its IRIN Censors Criticism of
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, May 18 -- With the UN under
fire for its role with respect
to war crimes in Sri Lanka, the UN has apparently taken to
reports which raise the question, while leaving those questions it
does in person take unanswered more than a full day later.
May 16 the
International Crisis Group e-mailed to the Press its reports calling
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
on this call on May 16, and at the next day's UN noon
briefing asked Martin Nesirky, the spokesman for Secretary General
Ban Ki-moon, to respond to those three points. Nesirky said the
report would have to be studied, but committed to get for example the
dollar figure spent by the UN on the camps.
to the May 18
noon briefing, Inner City Press learned that the UN affiliated IRIN
News service had "spiked" a story about the ICG report,
allegedly because the Government of Sri Lanka had refused to comment
on the report.
at the May
17 noon briefing, however, tried to deny Inner City Press the right
to ask about this presumptive censorship. "Only one more
questions," Nesirky declared, pointing at another correspondent
-- who in turn ceded this final question to Inner City Press.
is there a
limit on questions, Inner City Press asked. I can end the briefing
when I want to, Nesirky said. Based on the previous day, he knew
there were questions to be asked. Inner City Press asked him to
confirm or deny the censorship by IRIN of a story critical of his
boss' performance on Sri Lanka.
Nesirky twice said. Inner City Press emphasized that the allegation
made to it of UN censorship redounds against Ban Ki-moon, not the
acronym of IRIN. "Ask IRIN first," Nesirky said, ending the
press conference. Video here,
UN's Ban under M. Rajapaksa's gaze, IRIN and answers
did ask IRIN, and
its parent the Office for the Coordination of
on deadline confirm or deny that IRIN spiked and/or declined a run a
piece about the ICG report on Sri Lanka and the UN's role;
you deny, please confirm that the reason was the Gov't of Sri Lanka's
failure to provide comment, which ICG asked for from them three weeks
please comment on why this IRIN decision is not... censorship.
yesterday noon's briefing, several questions around about OCHA's
performance in Sri Lanka, and ICG's critique of inter alia the pull
out from Kilinochchi and the funding of internment camps. Some of the
question are below, from the transcript. A request was made for John
Holmes to come and take questions on these topics. In the interim,
please provide OCHA's response to the ICG report, as the Spokesman
did not, 24 hours after the questions were asked.
these was on deadline, the response received stated that "IRIN
does NOT in general tend to write stories on things like ICG or HRW
types of reports, because they already get good pick up, and IRIN per
se would have little to add."
as ICG itself
points out, IRIN routinely writes about ICG in connection with other
countries and even on more positive stories about Sri Lanka.
recently published a story about Sri Lanka called "Some Kind of
Peace." But ICG's report about war crimes was not covered, it
says, because the Government of Sri Lanka would not comment. (It was
perhaps too busy writing abusive letters and more to journalists.)
March 5 said he would name a group of experts to advise on war crimes
in Sri Lanka, with out delay. It is now May 18 and no panel has been
named. A report critical of his performance has been constructively
censored by the UN, and his spokesman has not answered basic even
financial questions in more than 24 hours. What was that again about
"without delay"? Watch this site.
* * *
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.