Sri Lanka Names Its Own Palihakkara as Investigator, UN Panel Would
Not Look at UN's Role in War Crimes
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, May 19 -- As witnesses testify
that orders to execute
prisoners came from the top of Sri Lanka's government, the UN on
Wednesday couldn't confirm it is even following the issue. Inner City
Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky
about the much
on UK Channel 4. "I would have
to check with colleagues if they are aware" of the report,
asked if the panel that Ban said ten and a half weeks ago would be
named without delay would have jurisdiction to look into the UN's
role, described by the International Crisis Group, in war crimes in
Sri Lanka. Video here,
from Minute 11:12.
essence replied. He said the panel would only "advise the
Secretary General on the extent to which a domestic inquiry in Sri
Lanka would meet normal standards." Thus, the delayed Ban panel
would not, even if named, be responsive to the calls for
investigation made by ICG, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch
Arbour of ICG said the government violated the laws of war by
blurring the line between combatants and civilians, and that its
killings of civilians were not accidents. Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka's
Number One Ambassador to the UN who is apparently letting his Number
Two run wild or play bad cop, said he had read the ICG report -- the
UN has apparently not finished it -- but that any outside,
independent investigation would be "colonial and paternalistic."
how could a
panel now named by Mahinda Rajapaksa investigate war crimes claims
made against his own brother? On the panel is
Kohona's predecessor as Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN,
H.M.G.S. Palihakkara, who defended the blood bath on the beach as
it took loomed and took place. See video here
(March 26), here
(April 22, and Inner City
Press' Q&A report), and here
the UN accept, for example, Sudan's UN Ambassador investigating
claims against Omar al-Bashir?
UN's Ban and Palihakkara-
credible investigation not shown
backdrop, Nesirky has in two days not provided any of the answers he
promised on Monday, including how much the UN spent on Sri Lanka's
internment camps, and with what safeguards if any. There has still
response from the IRIN or Ban's office to what's described as
censorship of the ICG report by the UN's IRIN news service.
City Press: on Sri Lanka, I wanted to ask, there is a report since
our last interchange on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, citing
senior military commanders, that there were orders from the top to
kill surrendering soldiers or hardline elements of the Tamil Tigers,
saying these orders came from the top, that “we were to leave no
one alive”. What I am wondering is, in light of this still either
delayed for 10 and a half weeks — however you characterize it —
appointing of a panel to advise Ban Ki-moon on accountability in Sri
Lanka, are they aware of this report? Does it make it go faster, and
would that panel have jurisdiction to advise the Secretary-General on
the UN’s own role in, as we discussed, leaving Kilinochi, an
ineffective call for a ceasefire, and funding internment camps as ICG
[International Crisis Group] has alleged?
On the specific news report that you are referring to on Channel 4,
I would have to check with colleagues whether they are aware of it. I
do not know the answer to that right now. On the broader question,
the Panel of Experts will have the role to advise the
Secretary-General on what the standards are for a credible domestic
investigation or inquiry. In other words, to address the question of
accountability that has been discussed very often. So it is a very
specific aim, to advise the Secretary-General on the extent to which
a domestic inquiry — meaning in Sri Lanka — would meet normal
standards, widely-held standards, for that kind of investigation. So
it is fairly specific.
City Press: And if you don’t mind, since on Monday, I think, you
had said that the Secretariat was going study this International
Crisis Group report, which actually made some allegations or called
for an international inquiry into the UN’s own conduct. What is
the UN’s response to that? Do they think that is appropriate? Given
that this Panel would not even do that if named, what is the
UN’s response to Louise Arbour and the ICG’s call for an inquiry
into the UN’s own actions in this matter?
Nesirky: As I mentioned, and as you have pointed out, we said that
it is being studied in some detail and that remains the case.
Watch this site.
* * *
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.