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Sept 24, 2013

UN: Sri Lanka


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In Sri Lanka, UN Feltman Silent on Social Media Cut Off, ICP Asks Of Protest at UN of Attacks on Muslims

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 12 – The UN did little during the killing of Tamils in Sri Lanka in 2009. Then the UN even accepted a military leader implicated in the mass killing, Shavendra Silva, as a Senior UN Adviser on Peacekeeping. On 5 March 2018, Inner City Press asked long time UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, Inner City Press: Now that you've announced this Jeffrey Feltman visit to Sri Lanka, is it fair to say… there's been wildly reported mass violence against Muslims there, a state of emergency declared, and supposedly, the police standing by as mosques and Muslim businesses were burned.  Is this something… what's the relationship between his trip and that?  And do you expect him to address this problem? Spokesman:  "Well, the trip… his trip was obviously planned before the recent state of emergency." And now that it is over, on March 11 the UN released a canned summary, below, which dod not mention restrictions on social media, soon after the UN hindered Press' use of Periscope at Guterres' photo op, and restricts Press for using it. On March 12, Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesman, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on the readout of Jeffrey Feltman's visit to Sri Lanka, I just wanted to… to ask, there's been… the Government there has taken the decision to suspend access to a number of major social media platforms in the name of trying to quell communal violence, but people… it's one of these open questions of whether that is a… that's the way to do it.  Did… did Mr. Feltman… did he observe that while he was there?  And what is the UN's view on a Government banning access to WhatsApp…Spokesman:  I'm not aware if he observed it as a matter of principle.  And I'm not aware of the specific details in Sri Lanka.  We do support free access to the internet. Inner City Press: And in part I'm asking because there's a protest or at least announced here at the UN on Wednesday of… of Sri Lankan Muslims basically saying the UN has not done enough.  So, does… in turn, does Mr. Feltman believe that the Government has been… has dealt with this problem appropriately? Spokesman:  The issue was raised in the talks with Mr. Feltman, and I think it's reflected in the readout." See if you can find it, here in the UN's statement: "On March 11, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman concluded a three-day visit to Sri Lanka. His trip was planned as part of the ongoing strong engagement between the Government and people of Sri Lanka and the United Nations.
Under-Secretary-General Feltman met with President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya, Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana, as well as other political leaders and cabinet and government officials. He also appreciated the opportunity to compare notes with members of Sri Lanka’s diverse civil society, human rights representatives, and the diplomatic corps. Noting the recent appointment of Commissioners, Under-Secretary-General Feltman expressed hope that the Office of Missing Persons will soon be fully operational to help answer questions that haunt too many families from all across Sri Lanka about their missing loved ones. He also commended the Parliament’s recent adoption of the Bill for the Protection Against Enforced Disappearances as an important element of the Sri Lankan government’s commitment to its citizens. He underscored the importance of accelerating momentum on other initiatives, including regarding the constitution, truth and reconciliation, reparations, and counter terrorism, in line with the Government’s promise to strengthen the country’s democratic principles and practices. He expressed concern that many elements of the Government’s visionary 2015 program seem stalled, despite their importance to sustainable peace, security and prosperity in Sri Lanka, and he appreciated the reassurances from Government leaders of their intention to move forward. He encouraged the Government to communicate their actions and timelines for reforms to the Sri Lankan people.  Regarding the recent communal violence, the Under-Secretary-General condemned the breakdown in law and order and the attacks against Muslims and their property. On behalf of the United Nations, he offered condolences to those affected. In that context, he met with Muslim political and civil society leaders to express concern and show solidarity. He urged swift and full implementation of the Government’s commitment to bring the perpetrators of the violence and hate speech to justice, to take measures to prevent recurrence, and to enforce non-discriminatory rule of law." Back on March 5, Inner City Press continued: Inner City Press: And just one… on Mr. Feltman, it seems that this is his final month.  Is there… can you describe the process, if not names?  Or do you expect to have an officer in charge?  What's the current thinking in terms of DPA [Department of Political Affairs]? Spokesman:  The current thinking is that the process is ongoing.  If there is someone in time to take his post, then the person will be there in time.  If there isn't, as there always is, when there is an administrative vacuum of leadership, there will be an officer in charge to ensure that the vacuum is filled. Inner City Press: And that would be Mr. Jenca? Spokesman:  Let's get… cross that bridge when we cross it if we ever… or when we get to it." Back on 8 November 2017, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about torture that has continued since. UN transcript below. On November 29 the UN in Geneva announced, "A three-member delegation from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention will carry out an official visit to Sri Lanka from 4 to 15 December 2017 to assess the country’s situation regarding the deprivation of liberty. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Leigh Toomey and Elina Steinerte will visit a variety of places where people are held, including prisons, police stations and institutions for juveniles, migrants and people with psychosocial disabilities, to gather first-hand information which will form part of their overall assessment. The delegation will visit Colombo as well as western, north-central, northern, eastern, southern and central provinces, where they will meet Government officials, civil society groups and other relevant stakeholders.

The experts will share their preliminary observations at a press conference on 15 December 2017 at 14:00 local time at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 07. Access will be strictly limited to journalists. The Working Group will present its final report on the visit to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018." From the UN's November 8 transcript: Inner City Press:  torture in Sri Lanka.  They've interviewed 50 individuals who were applying for asylum who give detailed accounts of being tortured under the current, not past, Government of Sri Lanka and saying that the military itself was involved.  So, I'm wondering, one, if there's any reaction given the UN's involvement in the situation in Sri Lanka but also, given that the UN is increasingly using Sri Lankan troops in UN peacekeeping, what… what do you… when… when detailed allegations like this come forward, what does the UN do to ensure that the very people who may have been engaged in torture…Spokesman:  As a matter of course, there is screening done in partnership with DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] and DFS [Department of Field Support] on ensuring that none of the troops that are committed to UN peacekeeping have any human rights abuses, allegations or issues hanging over their head.  So, that's a screening process. Inner City Press: Do they self-certify?  Or, given that these are new allegations published today… 50 people were interviewed…Spokesman:  I'm sure that our… my colleagues upstairs are taking these things into account." We're not at all sure. On October 23, Pablo de Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, said delays in the implementation of commitments undermined trust and raised questions about the Government’s determination to undertake a comprehensive transitional justice program. "These delays contribute to the further politicization of discussions on transitional justice," he said. The UN should know - even before the killings of 2009, the IPKF killed Tamil civilians - and one UN connection involves Ban Ki-moon's son in law, whom he made the UN's resident coordinator in Kenya. This UN Resident Coordinator, like the previous one in Cameroon, even as Inner City Press reports on the Kenyan elections, blocks it on Twitter and deploys proxies; now this blocking has been picked up on October 20 by the UN's Department of Public Information deputy Maher Nasser, who used DPI to that day threat Inner City Press' accreditation. There were appreciated protests when the UN did this in 2016. But the UN, apparently, is fully committed to censorship, while it has Special Rapporteurs speaking and meaning otherwise. On October 24, Inner City Press asked Guterres' (and Ban's) deputy spokesman Farhan Haq: Inner City Press:  Pablo de Greiff, the… on transitional justice, spent a two-week visit to Sri Lanka.  And, since the UN Secretariat and DPA (Department of Political Affairs) have worked on it, basically said the… the… the commitments to transitional justice and accountability have not… have yet to be concluded with and that it's going to lead to political problems.  So, I wondered, does the UN Secretariat see an ongoing… a need to follow up, given that… I know Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman's visited twice; the Secretary-General… previous Secretary-General visited.  What's the response to this finding that… what was… things that were committed to have not, in fact, taken place and… and the underlying need for… for preventative… prevention of conflict remain? Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we don't comment, as you pointed out, on the work of Special Rapporteurs. But, beyond that, we have made our concerns known about the need… the regular need for follow-up by the Sri Lankan authorities to make sure that there is accountability, and we'll continue to do that." We'll continue to follow this. 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. On September 5, Inner City Press asked Antonio Guterres' top three spokespeople in writing: "In Sri Lanka, war crimes defendant Jagath has been quoted that Radika Coomaraswamy, while a UN official, told him not to sorry about war crimes charges. Given that timing, and UN's admittedly systemically failing role in Sri Lanka, please confirm or deny, comment and state what the UN's action will be." More than three days later, no answer, no confirmation of receipt, nothing. So Inner City Press asked Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on Sri Lanka, again, maybe you may have been overwhelmed by the question, but there's a former general, Jagath, who's been charged with war crimes.  He fled back to Sri Lanka from Brazil.  Since he got back to Sri Lanka, he said that then-UN official Radhika Coomaraswamy told… quote, “told me that there is nothing against you in terms of war crimes.”  So I understand that she's no longer a UN official, but given that he is explicitly saying that she said it as a UN official, does the UN have anything to… is it… was the case that… Spokesman:  Well, I mean, it's not… I don't know anything about the veracity of the quote, but it's… these sorts of charges are put forward by judicial bodies. Inner City Press:  And does that charge have any impact on the continued use and deployment of Sri Lankan… Spokesman: " I think as we said, all Sri Lanka troops go through unit vetting and individual vetting." 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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