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On Sri Lanka, NAM Will Wait, "Pillay's" Neuwirth to Head Panel Staff of 8, Qatar Pitched Iran to Head NAM

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 15 -- We'll “take our time” on the Sri Lanka letter, the current head of the Non Aligned Movement told Inner City Press on Thursday night, to see if they can “make up to Secretary General” Ban Ki-moon.

  He added that “a lot of comments” against the letter were received from NAM members, on “the relation to the flotilla” and other issues.

  Meanwhile the Council representative of a Permanent Five member, also on Thursday evening, told Inner City Press that Sri Lanka is “out of control... they went too far.”

  This representative confirmed to Inner City Press the identity of the chief of staff of the UN's Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka: Jessica Neuwirth, a long time UN human rights official and founder of Equality Now, friend of Navi Pillay.

  Some in Sri Lanka government circles say the appointment of Neuwirth, at a high level, smacks of patronage or nepotism, as does staffing the panel with eight people. “Goldstone didn't get that,” one noted. “The Sudan panel didn't get that.”

With a staff of eight, the Panel should at least opine of the credibility of the Rajapaksa Administration's “Lessons Learnt” panel. The Rapjapansans are afraid, they say, of this “becoming like Cambodia,” with a UN affiliated tribunal, or even Sierra Leone. We'll see.

Neuwirth, 2d from left, with Mrs. Ban, Mayanja, Equality Now

  Also on the NAM, the next chair after Egypt will be Iran, it was confirmed to Inner City Press on Thursday night. Previous candidate Qatar turned around and NOMINATED Iran -- “for what purpose, we don't know,” one NAM insider said. Get ready for fireworks.

  Inner City Press was told that while Qatar is unlikely to get the UN Women headquarters, even for $100 million, they could “appoint a lady.” There are 10 “official candidates,” including the “Rwandan minister,” the insider said, "and Rachel Mayanja."

   On whether DSG Asha Rose Migiro will shift over to UN Women, “it's up to her,” the insider said, finding it significant that Migiro is handing UN Women on an interim basis.

Migiro's rumored successor as DSG was at the Egyptian reception, but begged off for family matters. French family matters? Watch this site.

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Sri Lanka Statement Minimizing UN Panel Done with Buhne, As Kohona Pitches Officials

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 12 -- When UN Secretary General issued a statement late on July 9 minimizing the mandate of the UN panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka, the purpose of the statement was opaque. Hours later, Sri Lanka government minister Wimal Weerawansa called off his “hunger strike to the death” a mere two days in.

  On July 12, Inner City Press asked Ban's Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq if the statement was negotiated with Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa government to provide ground cover for Weerawansa to eat, and who outside the UN system had been consulted before the final statement was issued.

  Haq answered indirectly, saying that the statement merely reiterated prior Ban Ki-moon pronouncements. Then why issue it?

Referring to accountability, Ban's July 9 statement says that “the United Nations recognizes that the responsibility in this regard is that of the Government of Sri Lanka.” It does not even say “in the first instance.”

  Most assume that the purpose of the panel is, or was, to advise Ban on whether the Rajapaksas' “Lessons Learnt” mechanism is enough. But Ban did not say that. Nor did he call for visas for the panel members to visit Sri Lanka.

  Ban's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq said, without limitation, that the statement was produced “in discussion with the Resident Coordinator, who thought it would be helpful.” Haq did not say with whom Buhne has consulted.

  Inner City Press asked if Buhne will be made available for Press questions while he is in New York. Haq replied that Buhne is “arriving today” and is “finishing up his time;” Haq said he was “not sure if he will be available for a briefing.” Video here, from Minute 20:42.

Fire at UN in Sri Lanka, (call for) visas for UN panel not shown

Meanwhile Sri Lanka'a Permanent Representative to the UN Palitha Kohona appeared at 1 p.m. on Monday at a commemoration of the genocide, allowed by the UN, in Srebrenica in 1995. While Ban spoke of accountability -- that word again -- Kohona chatted up US Deputy Permanent Representative Rosemary DiCarlo.

As Ban, who declined questions, spoke with other Ambassadors, Kohona spoke amiably with UN Under Secretary General Sha Zukang, and then more heatedly to USG for Public Information Kiyotaka Akasaka. This conversation continued after all the other Ambassadors had left, right to the turnstiles to leave the General Assembly building. What could Kohona have been lobbying about? Watch this site.

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As Srebenica Remembered at UN, Uzbeks of Kyrgystan Forgotten, Sri Lanka Lobbying

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 12 -- The UN commemorated the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre on Monday, as above Srebrenica itself a memorial points the finger at the UN's role in the genocide.

The UN has to accept responsibility for not doing enough,” said President of the General Assembly Ali Treki, in a memorial ceremony featuring Permanent Representatives of countries ranging from Georgia through Ghana, India and Kazakhstan to Sri Lanka.

  Moments later, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put it differently, saying that the UN made “errors of judgment.”  One wondered what he would say about Rwanda.
  Ban Ki-moon spoke of accountability. Earlier on Monday, the International Criminal Court issued a supplemental indictment of Sudan's Omar al Bashir, for genocide. Mr. Ban sent both of his two top envoys to Sudan to Bashir's re-inauguration ceremony earlier this year.

After the ceremony, Inner City Press and a long time Balkan reporter called out to Mr. Ban, wanting to ask about the UN's invocation of immunity against lawsuits by the mothers of Srebrenica.

No questions,” Mr. Ban said, politely it must be and was said. In his wake, the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka, facing accusations of war crimes, lobbied a UN Under Secretary General. There was no discussion of UN action and inaction on the case of the ethnics Uzbeks.

UN's Ban and a USG commemorating a genocide, Q&A not shown

 Back on July 2, Inner City Press has asked:

Inner City Press: can I ask about Kyrgyzstan? The French Minister for Human Rights, Mr. [inaudible], has said that he believes that what happened in southern Kyrgyzstan was a crime against humanity and should be investigated. I just wonder, obviously the Secretary-General has various forms of inquiries and proposals for inquiries outstanding. What’s the UN’s actual estimate of how many people were killed in southern Kyrgyzstan? And also, is there a move by the Secretariat to do anything beyond that in what seems to be at least 200, maybe, Rosa Otunbayeva has said 2,000 killings that were part of ethnic cleansing? What’s the UN’s follow-through on that?

Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq: In terms of our follow-through, we’ve been detailing what we’ve been doing both at the humanitarian level through efforts of UNHCR, OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] and various others, and at the diplomatic level through the efforts, among others, of Mr. Miroslav Jenca. And that work on the ground is going on and we’re trying to do what we can to bring the communities of Kyrgyzstan together again, and to encourage community solidarity. As for the death toll — no, we, the UN, do not have any death toll of our own that we would confirm.

Inner City Press: What I want to say is it seems like in many of these conflicts the UN says all these things are all to the good, about building solidarity or humanitarian response, but this word like “accountability” has been used in a number of contexts by the Secretariat. Is there any thought of, whatever the number is, accountability for what took place? Whether it’s through Mr. Jenca’s office or through the Secretariat, or is that not a part of the follow-through?

Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq: Well, I don’t have anything specific to say about that at this point. Obviously, this is something that we would study. The needs on the ground at this stage are very great, and we’ve been focusing primarily on the needs of all the people who have been displaced by the fighting that occurred. In terms of the initial incidents, I believe my colleagues at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have already made some remarks about this. Whether there will be any further investigation, some of that will depend on the attitudes of the parties on the ground. And of course, this will also be something that we ourselves will continue to look into, to see whether anything further is needed

Well, is there? Watch this site.

 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.

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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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