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Sept 24, 2013

UN: Sri Lanka


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On Sri Lanka, Jagath Says UN Official Told Him No War Crimes Worries, No UN Answer

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 3 – The UN did little during the killing of Tamils in Sri Lanka in 2009. Then under Ban Ki-moon, the UN even accepted a military leader implicated in the mass killing, Shavendra Silva, as a Senior UN Adviser on Peacekeeping. Inner City Press pursued the question and asked Ban why he did it; later Ban had Inner City Press evicted from the UN, where restrictions remain still. Now Inner City Press has asked - without answer - the top three spokespeople of Ban Ki-moon's successor Antonio Guterres about the war crimes case against Sri Lankan general / diplomat Jagath Jayasuriya. Notably, "Radhika Coomaraswamy, who was the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Special Representative for Children and Armed conflict… told me that that there is 'nothing against you,'" Jagath Jayasuriya has said. The UN Spokespeople have refused to answer Press questions, as many hours after North Korea's hydrogen bomb test they remained silent. The UN is a shamelessly corrupt censor. Its dismissive approach to Tamils and the North has become public again: "Northern Province Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran noted he had differences of opinion with Subinay Nandy, the former United Nations Country Representative for Sri Lanka. Wigneswaran says the differences of opinion arose as Nandy had pushed him to fall in line with the Government. 'We were not prepared to do so,' Wigneswaran said. He said this when he met the UN country team headed by Una McCauley, the current UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative. Wigneswaran says the perceptions of the Northern Provincial Council were not taken into consideration by Subinay Nandy. 'We had told Mr. Nandy that many matters that needed consideration by the UN at that time were not considered by him,' Wigneswaran said." But is Una McCauley more responsive? She covered up for the UN's attack on the Press; she's promoted without sufficient vetting the deployment of veterans of the 2009 campaign into UN peacekeeping missions. Last month, just as an under-publicized visit to Sri Lanka by the UN's head of Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman begins, UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson has found that torture continues and reforms have stalled. After Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake was quoted that “some erroneous remarks by Emmerson were raised with Feltman and the matter sorted out," Inner City Press on July 24 asked UN Spokesman Farhan Haq for Jeffrey Feltman, who ended his trip to Sri Lanka on July 21, to hold a press conference to answer. Instead there was a canned statement, which should go up on the UN's website, without regard to Emmerson. But the UN prepares to send Sri Lankan soldiers to Mali. And now, seemingly to ingratiate Feltman with President Sirisena so he doesn't get snubbed as the UN's Miroslav Jenca reportedly did in Myanmar, the UN on July 20 cravenly issued a statement that Antonio Guterres "commends the Government of Sri Lanka for establishing the Office of Missing Persons." On July 21, Inner City Press asked Guterres' Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq about it, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: the statement on Sri Lanka and I asked you a couple days ago about Ben Emmerson's findings of continued mass torture in the country and I didn't really hear much of a response.  What is the relationship between this statement, praising the Government for a forward going action and what was just found as to actual torture and what is the relationship of this statement to Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman's visit to the country?

Deputy Spokesman:  Part of the point is that Mr. Feltman does intend to follow up and make sure that we can get the Government of Sri Lanka to move forward on issues, including issues of human rights concern.  This was a major rights concern, the issue of missing persons, and we have been pressing on this for about a year and a half, so the establishment of this office is a welcome step forward.  It's not the only step forward.  As Mr. Emmerson points out, there are concerns on the ground but not enough progress has been made on human rights, and so these are some of the issues that Mr. Feltman will be talking about with the leaders while he is there.

  We'll see. On July 18 Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: the Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson recent… has visited… concluded a visit to Sri Lanka, and he issued a report where he said that torture is wide-spread today, not in the past, but today, and that the reforms that were called for by the Human Rights Council have not… that… that progress on them have… has “ground to a halt”.  So, I wanted to know two things.  One is, with Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman going there, is he going to raise this issue of ongoing torture?  And, number two, the UN is still continuing, I've seen pictures, to recruit Sri Lankan troops to serve in [the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission] in Mali (MINUSMA).  Given this new finding by the UN that the security forces in Sri Lanka are engaged in torture, what particular safeguards are in place to make sure that those involved in the abuse aren't, in fact, just shipped to Mali to continue it?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, wherever we recruit soldiers from, in every country, we try to vet the peacekeeping troops… the incoming peacekeeping troops, to make sure that they're not involved in any problems like that in their home country.  And, of course, we would do that sort of vetting for Sri Lankan troops as we would for any other country.  Regarding Mr. Feltman's travel, of course, we'll try to provide details on that once it's happened.

Inner City Press: So will the [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] get this report just came out today, and the recruitment has already taken place.  The Resident Coordinator has been meeting with the military.  The military has been bragging about it.  I guess what I want to know is, in light of this new UN founding released today, will this be information be incorporated before people get off the plane in Mali to begin serving the UN?

Deputy Spokesman:  If there's new relevant information of… regarding the peacekeeping troops that they're dealing with, then our Department of Field Support would look into that.

  Will they? Emmerson said, "The Tamil community has borne the brunt of the State’s well-oiled torture apparatus, as the law is used disproportionately against them. The use of torture is deeply ingrained in the security sector. I heard deeply disturbing, first-hand accounts of brutal torture. These included beatings with sticks, stress positions, asphyxiation using plastic bags drenched in kerosene, pulling out of fingernails, insertion of needles beneath the fingernails, various forms of water torture, suspension for several hours by the thumbs, and mutilation of the genitals.” Emmerson cited the watered down UN Human Rights Council resolution and said, "more than two years on, progress seems to have ground to a virtual halt." So what will Feltman do? And why is the UN sending Sri Lankan soldiers to Mali? On June 5 after an expose of Sri Lankan "peacekeepers" rapes in Haiti, when Ban's successor Antonio Guterres met Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe he did not have with him the UN Peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix, nor Lacroix' deputy or anyone from DPKO. So can the UN even pretend it is taking the peacekeepers' rapes issue, or wider accountability issues, seriously? On May 26, Inner City Press asked the UN, transcript here: Inner City Press:  I've heard that at the Office of the [United Nations] High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), that they had an assigned staffer that was vetting Sri Lankans being deployed, for example, to Mali and other missions where they're being taken by the UN and that that person has recently been reassigned such that there is no staff member handling this.  I'm wondering, is the policy that you read out today, is this a response to the AP story?  How does it relate to actually reassigning the person who had been, until recently, in charge of vetting soldiers?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, no, this is not a response.  This is the policy that we've had in place because of the exceptional needs in terms of how we deal with peacekeeping contributions from Sri Lanka.  Obviously, there's a self-certification process that’s standard for troops and police contributions by Member States.  And in that, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to tailor their approach and put in place mitigating measures as needed.  With Sri Lanka, the measures are as I've been spelling out just now.

Question:  So when they sent Shavendra Silva, a well-known military commander, this same country sent him as a senior adviser on peacekeeping, would it have passed this policy if they'd said that he didn't commit any crimes?

Deputy Spokesman:  Obviously, like I said, you know, any… the content of any policy, you know, of any review or investigation, needs to be done in a precise manner.  We are not the ones who nominated Mr. Silva.  You would have to ask the Government of Sri Lanka why they nominated him.

  On March 30, laundered by Ban Ki-moon and the UN, Shavendra Silva has been named Adjutant General of the Sri Lankan Army, photos here. On April 3, Inner City Press asked the UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric who served Ban Ki-moon and now Antonio Guterres about Silva, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: in Sri Lanka, there's a military figure called Shavendra Silva that you may remember.  He was appointed as a senior…

Spokesman:  Yes.  Yeah, I know who he was.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  So, there was some controversy, and he ended up… even the UN Secretariat seemed to acknowledge that there was a controversy under Ms. Frechette.  He's recently been named the chief administrative officer of the Sri Lankan military.  So, I wanted to know, one, if you have a comment, but, two, how this may relate to the vetting of Sri Lankan peacekeepers, which I've asked about in writing, being deployed to UN peacekeeping missions.  Is the military…?

Spokesman:  I think the… I… the vetting of peacekeepers will remain the same along our procedures.  And I have no specific comment on him.

It is an outrage - but one in which the UN has played a shameful part. (There was also Shavendra Silva as a speaker at a "UN screening" of a war crimes denial film, here.) Not only does the UN remain silent on human rights abuses like this year in Cameroon: it actively launders war criminals, and remains silent when they get promotions, accepts their troops as peacekeepers. Last week Inner City Press formally asked the UN Spokesman to describe the UN's vetting and due diligence of the Sri Lanka military figures it is deploying to peacekeeping missions, without response. We'll have more on this.

Now that Sri Lankan president Sirisena has said, No foreign judges, Inner City Press on March 3 asked Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for Ban Ki-moon and now Antonio Guterres, for the new Secretary General's reaction. Video here; UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: the President of Sri Lanka, Mr. Sirisena, has said in Sri Lanka that there will be no foreign judges, no hybrid court.  I know this was an issue that the former Secretary-General had kind of a personal interest in, this idea of following up on the 2009 events.  What's the response of the UN system to essentially a flat “no” by the President?

Spokesman:  The situation remains one that we're following.  I think I would encourage you to ask the human rights… our colleagues in the Human Rights Office who are on the lead on this issue.

  (Of course, the spokesman of the UN Human Rights Office, Rupert Colville, has refused to answer written questions from Inner City Press.)

  The UN, which half-admitted systemic failure under Ban Ki-moon while tens of thousands of Tamils were killed in Sri Lanka, has been supporting something called the National Authority for Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses.

  But now that the body has been shown to include, among others, a person accused by the UN's own Special Rapporteur of torture, what does the UN do? Nothing, it seems.

  The issue was raised again on February 20 in the 66th Session of Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Video here. This came, as it happens, hours after the son in law of just-left UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Siddharth Chatterjee, dodged again on his connection to alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka. He wrote: "The fact is that I arrived in Sri Lanka having cut short a specialized combat under water diving course with the Indian Navy on October 16, 1987. The raid at Jaffna University took place on 12 October 1987." But it was after the failed October 12 raid - and after Chatterjee's now specified October 16 arrival - that the alleged reprisals took place. We'll have more on this, including in light of the new human rights self-attestation promulgated in the UN.

 On February 14, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about it. He had no answer, and later in the briefing, regarding Ban Ki-moon who has had two relatives indicted for real estate fraud involving the UN, called Inner City Press "obsessive" then an a*hole.

(This same Haq in 2016 cut off Press questions about a protest in Jaffna of Ban Ki-moon's unilateral eviction from the UN of Inner City Press, where it remains restricted as  "non-resident correspondent.")

  Here's from the February 14 UN transcript, on Sri Lanka:

Inner City Press: I want to ask you about Sri Lanka, and I'll say why.  There's a report out by the International Truth and Justice Project run by Yasmin Sooka, who was one of the named panellists.  And they've basically said that there's a Sri Lankan body called the National Authority for Victim and Witness Protection, and they've named a member of the body, put on by the Government, who's named in a UN report as having been accused of torture by a Special Rapporteur on Torture.  And the reason I'm asking is the UN is apparently providing financial support to this National Authority for Victim and Witness Protection.  There's a… a… they've… they've hired a management consultant.  And I wanted to know, is the UN, given its previous role in Sri Lanka, aware that it's financially supporting a body that has, in fact, torturers on it?  And, if so, what happens to the financial support?

Deputy Spokesman:  We'd have to check and see what sort of financial support is being provided.  I'm not aware of what support is given to this group and whether that would need to be conditioned on any particular set of circumstances. 

  Haq, after calling Inner City Press an obsessive a*hole, left his office hours later having provided no answer. Here is the report, and here a sample UN system recruitment, showing support.

40,000 dead Tamils, UN failure? Get over it.


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