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March 1, 2011: Libya

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With UN Dodging on Ban's Sri Lanka Accountability Panel, Won't Confirm Receipt of Request about Disappeared Journalist

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 8 -- On issues ranging from press freedom to accountability for war crimes, the UN under Secretary General Ban Ki-moon can barely communicate, dodging questions by saying “we have no comment on that” or “we cannot confirm that” or “it is up to the Panel” -- which reports to Ban Ki-moon.

Earlier this year, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky told Inner City Press that the UN system had not received any petition about disappeared journalist Prageeth Eknelygoda. Even after UN resident coordinator in Colombo Neil Buhne told the press he had received and transmitted the petition, Nesirky again said that no petition had been received.

On March 7, five prominent press freedom organization have faxed directly to Ban's office, formally asking for UN involvement in the case. On March 8 Inner City Press asked Nesirky about it:

Inner City Press: the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, and IFJ said, among two other groups, have said that they have written a letter to the Secretary-General about this case of Prageeth [Eknelygoda], a journalist in Sri Lanka that disappeared about a year ago — their letter actually quotes you, from this briefing on 18 February, but they are saying the UN should get involved in finding out what happened to this journalist; they are saying that the letter was given to Neil Buhne and they said no replacement has been named. I guess I wanted to know, can you, you know, they are pretty, I would think they would know how to deliver the letter; has this letter been received and is the UN and actually as it’s been asked now for some time by the wife of the journalist, going to get involved in looking into this matter, and who will replace Mr. Buhne?

Spokesperson: Well, I am sure that international non-governmental organizations with the strong track records as the ones you have mentioned know how to deliver a letter. The United Nations also knows how to receive a letter. And it may or may not be that that letter has been received yet; I am going to check. As for the need to intercede, I understand that this is something that is being actively looked at by colleagues in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. But this is not something that I think we would have further details on at the moment. As for the replacement, as and when a replacement is named, I am sure that we will say. I don’t have anything on that at the moment.

Since CPJ had publicized the filing of the letter with Ban, one might have expected Nesirky's Office to have been able to confirm receipt, and to have some response. But the previously day, March 7, Nesirky refused to answer if Ban's Panel on Sri Lanka had met with the country's Attorney General on February 23, or if its report will be public.

UN's Ban and Silva, Kohona looks on, ICC not shown 
(c) MLee

  From the UN's March 7 transcript:

Inner City Press: I want to ask on this Sri Lanka question that I e-mailed you over the weekend. There is a report in Sri Lanka quoting UN sources, saying that after a meeting between the Attorney General of Sri Lanka and Mr. Ban and other officials, there was another meeting with, in fact, the Secretary-General’s Panel. That, I just want you to either confirm or deny that, and also that the deadline has been extended for two or three weeks. Is that true and if so, why was it extended and will, in fact, the Panel travel to Sri Lanka or not?

Spokesperson: Well on the first, as you also saw, the reporting over the weekend suggested that there was a secret meeting with the Secretary-General, and you know as well as I do, because you were there, that that is simply not the case. You were there taking pictures, so the reporting may be a little bit shaky. It is, of course, for the Panel to comment on any meetings that they may or may not have had. And I don’t have anything for you on that. With regard to when the Panel will submit its report, it is scheduled to be, as we have already said, this month. It is for the Panel to decide when that will take place.

Inner City Press: Who speaks for the Panel, just in the sense of were they in town? The reporting… I understand… I guess you are denying that, that report from Sri Lanka, but were the three members in…?

Spokesperson: Matthew, I said…

Inner City Press: You are saying it’s shaky?

Spokesperson: I said it is for the Panel to comment on whether a meeting may or may not have taken place.

Inner City Press: Isn’t it the Secretary-General’s Panel?

Spokesperson: The Panel needs to do its work independently, and then be able to report to the Secretary-General. And that report, as you know, is in the making, and as soon as it is ready to be presented to the Secretary-General, it will be.

Inner City Press: And will it be public, is my last one… Will that report be actually released given the…?

Spokesperson: Again, that’s for the Panel to decide, in consultation with the Secretary-General. Okay, other questions? Please?

Inner City Press keeps being bombarded with assurances that Ban's halting half inquiry into Sri Lanka will somehow all work out. But how? Watch this site.

* * *

On Sri Lanka, UN Denies “Secret” Meeting, Won't Say If Report Public

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 7 -- The UN's evasiveness on the meetings, travel and report of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Panel on Sri Lanka continued on March 7, with Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky telling Inner City Press that it is up to the Panel to speak for itself, even to decide if its report should be public.

  Nesirky called “shaky” reporting that has suggested a secret February 23 meeting, telling Inner City Press “you know, you were there taking pictures, that was not the case.”

  Inner City Press asked, were the members of Ban's panel in town, in New York? Even this Nesirky would not answer, saying it is up to the Panel to say. But where is the Panel?

  Then Nesirky said that deadline is “this month.” Inner City Press asked, will it be public?

That will be up to the panel, Nesirky said, in consultation with the Secretary General.

Inner City Press covered a surprise meeting on February 23 between Ban and Sri Lankan officials including the Attorney General and ex-general Shavendra Silva, responsible for what UN officials called the “bloodbath on the beach” in May 2009.

  At the time, Inner City Press repeatedly asked Nesirky what relation that meeting had with the work of Ban's panel and Sri Lanka's Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission. Nesirky would not relate them in any way.

On March 6, the Sri Lanka Sunday Times reported that the Sri Lankan delegation on February 23, after the meeting exclusively reported by Inner City Press, met with Ban's panel, and that the panel's deadline was extended two or three weeks. Immediately upon seeing the article, Inner City Press sent questions by e-mail to Nesirky and his deputy Farhan Haq on the morning of March 6:

A UN source is quoted in the Sri Lanka Sunday Times that after the meeting between Messrs. Ban, Nambiar, Haysum, et al and Sri Lanka's Attorney General and External Affairs minister on February 23 which you have told me was about reconstruction and rehabilitation,

1) the two Sri Lanka official met with Mr. Ban's Panel -- true or false? If true, why kept secret, and does this replace the trip to Sri Lanka Ban has repeatedly said is allowed by Mahinda Rajapaksa's flexibility?

2) the deadline for the Panel, set for March 1, has been extended “two to three weeks” - true or false? If true, why was this not announced, and extended for what purpose?

Yes or no: will the report be made public?

Please provide a complete list of attendees of the Ban meeting, and of the reported meeting afterward with Mr. Ban's Panel.

Nesirky and his deputy Farhan Haq never answered or even confirmed receipt of these questions. More than 24 hours after submitting the questions, at the March 7 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Nesirky to answer them, to respond to the Sunday Leader story, and to state if Ban's Panel will travel to Sri Lanka (as Ban has repeatedly claimed).

Nesirky called the Sunday Leader's reporting “shaky” in suggesting a secret meeting, emphasizing to Inner City Press “you know, you were there taking pictures, that was not the case.”

Sri Lanka officials, Ban, Nambiar et al - Ban's left not ID-ed (c) MRLee

   Inner City Press asked, were the members of Ban's panel in New York? Even this Nesirky would not answer, saying it is up to the Panel to say. But where is the Panel?

Nesirky said that deadline is “this month.” Inner City Press asked, will it be public?

That will be up to the panel, Nesirky said, in consultation with the Secretary General. We'll see.

Meanwhile, former Sri Lanka UN ambassador HMGS Palihakkara, a member of Mahinda Rajapaksa's LLRC, was in New York at the same time, sources say, as part of Ban's advisory group on disarmament. So an LLRC member was in New York at the time -- were the members of Ban's panel? Watch this site.

 And watch the end of this debate, about Sri Lanka.

* * *

After Ban Ki-moon Meets Sri Lanka AG & General Silva, UN Won't Say If First Time, No Trip or Panel in UN Read Out

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 24 -- After months of controversy regarding if Sri Lanka will allow UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Panel on Accountability to visit the country and interview officials like the Attorney General if not President, Ban himself met on February 23 with with Attorney General Mohan Peiris and the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, former General Shavendra Silva.

  But when Inner City Press asked on February 24 for a read out of the meeting -- and if this was Ban's first meeting with Silva, himself accused of war crimes -- Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said the “courtesy call” was about “reconciliation and reconstruction efforts."

  Inner City Press asked how it could be that Ban's Panel, President Mahinda Rajapaksa's Lessons Learnt Commission could not be in the read out -- was this, Inner City Press asked, a mutually agreed statement with the Sri Lankan government?

  No, Nesirky insisted, he was providing a read out for the UN Secretariat.

  When Inner City Press has asked Ban Ki-moon to explain why his Panel has not gone to Sri Lanka, despite his claim on December 17 that they could due to Rajapaksa's “flexibility,” Ban said that they still would go, adding confusingly that he was “still trying.”

  But his read out of his meeting with Sri Lanka's Attorney General does not mention any trip, or even his Panel.

 The Sri Lankan government, after denying Inner City Press' report that this meeting would take place, then called the Daily Mirror on behalf of External Affairs Ministry Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe to admit it took place -- and said it concerned “legal issues.” This is not a topic mentioned in the UN's read out.

  Inner City Press asked Nesirky to confirm that the Panel's already extended deadline is the end of February, as had been reported. Nesirky replied that “the Panel will let us know when we can let you know.”

  So when, Inner City Press repeated, is the deadline? Nesirky wouldn't say.

 On whether this was Ban's first meeting with former General Shavendra Silva, described by widely read New York press as a war criminal, Nesirky said he has “no idea” - and wouldn't even say he would ask or find out.

This is the transparency and commitment to accountability for war crimes of which Ban has spoken?

Lanka 4 incl Silva, Ban & Nambiar, Panel not shown -or even mentioned? (c) MRLee

Also attending the February 23 meeting but standing off to the side during the handshaking was Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar. Inner City Press nevertheless took a photograph of him standing by the side, and later sitting at Ban's right hand for the meeting.

In recent days, Inner City Press has asked Ban's spokesperson's office for a response to the inclusion of Nambiar in a filing with the International Criminal Court, which asserts

a basis to question whether Vijay Nambiar was in fact an innocent neutral intermediary or in fact a co-perpetrator within the negotiation related community.”

The filing, which has been reported in the Australian press, recites that

"NAMBIAR again through the United Nations-24 hour dispatch center in New York. NAMBIAR replied to COLVIN that MAHINDA RAJAPAKSE, GOTABAYA RAJAPAKSE, AND PALITHA KOHONA had assured NAMBIAR that the LTTE members would be safe in surrendering to the SLA and treated like “normal prisoners of war” if they “hoist[ed] a white flag high.”

Ban's lead spokesman Martin Nesirky would not say he would seek a response from Nambiar or the Executive Office of the Secretary General to these descriptions.

Nesirky's deputy Farhan Haq issued an on the record statement to another journalist that “the Inner City Press story is inaccurate; there has been no complaint formally filed at the International Criminal Court.” On February 23, Inner City Press repeatedly asked Nesirky to explain the statement; he has thus far declined. Watch this site.

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

 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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