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Sri Lanka and Responsibility to Protect Arise in UN, Would Ban Take to Council?

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, May 8 -- With bombs dropping on civilians in Northern Sri Lanka and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon still mulling the government's invitation to visit, the talk at the UN has turned to the Responsibility to Protect. On May 6 at a reception attended by Ban Ki-moon and Ed Luck, his special adviser on R2P, as it known, Inner City Press asked Luck how the concept would apply to Sri Lanka. "To both sides," Luck answered.

   He noted that R2P was formally cited during Kofi Annan's mediation in Kenya. Inner City Press asked what he thought of the appointment of former Indian Ambassador Nirupam Sen as the adviser to the President of the General Assembly on R2P. While diplomatically praising Sen, Luck remarked that India was the "last country to come aboard" on the R2P Outcome Document in 2005.

  In May 7, Inner City Press asked Nirupam Sen for his views on R2P, specifically regarding Sri Lanka. While refusing to answer on Sri Lanka, Sen insisted first the India wasn't the last to join consensus in 2005, then that it had only held out to make the points of "U.S. civil society groups." Sen said that India's position had been that R2P should only be a UN doctrine if the use of the Security Council veto by five countries were repealed, to "eliminate the strategic imperatives of any great power." Video here, from Minute 41:42.

   Ironically, it is China's and to some degree Russia's veto threats which have kept the carnage in Sri Lanka off of the Council's formal agenda, and keep the Council "dialogues" on the topic confined to the basement.

  Inner City Press asked asked Sen about Sri Lanka's application to the International Monetary Fund for a $1.9 billion loan, and whether the bloodshed and internment camps in the North should be considered. Sen said that "anything the IMF does to reduce and tone down conditionality is a step in the right direction," toward "mitigating humanitarian impact." But what if the loan is used to involuntarily relocate and detain people? The IMF wouldn't do that, Sen implied. But wouldn't they?

Nirupam Sen as Ambassador in Council, Ban and R2P not shown

  On May 8, Inner City Press asked a senior Ban adviser about Sri Lanka's invitation. I don't think the Secretary General should go, the adviser replied. The government could just use it. He suggested that, instead, Ban should invoke Article 99 of the UN Charter and push to put Sri Lanka on the Council's agenda, in the name of R2P. The draft outcome document gives the Secretary General that role, Ban's adviser said. Inner City Press asked Ban's Deputy Spokesperson about this an hour later, but she said she had nothing to add to what Ban had said on May 5.

  Ban's Deputy Spokesperson announced on Friday an upcoming trip by Ban, not to Sri Lanka but Manama, Bahrain. To many these seem to be strange priorities.

  Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert if his foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, another major player in R2P, is requesting a Security Council session on May 11, when he and his UK counter-part David Miliband will be in New York. Ripert said, "On the side of the meeting on the Middle East... we are organizing with UK a meeting... we are working on the exact form." Video here, from Minute 10:53.

Footnote 1: According to NGO sources, Ambassador Ripert in a recent meeting with them said, of Sri Lanka's Army, "their war is our war," which the NGOs took to mean the "war on terror."  Some wondered if this didn't just give a green light to the Sri Lankan Army. We'll see: we will report on this site any response received, on France's view of Sri Lanka (or in advance of the Council's trip to Africa next week of MONUC in the Congo appearing in a memo in French to work with a war criminal.)

Footnote 2: In what could be called an R2P cat fight, Nirupan Sen's criticism of Ban's adviser Ed Luck went further, when Sen said the Fifth (Budget) Committee was right to refuse to confirm him in his post, and to keep him on "a dollar a year." Inner City Press asked Luck about the dollar, and if he has a UN phone number. Of the latter, Luck said he still doesn't, but that at the UN there are many people with phones but the Secretary General doesn't pick up at the other end. And if the call came from the Vanni conflict zone, would Mr. Ban pick up?

   On May 6, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson about a widely seen piece on Britain's Channel 4, filmed in an IDP camp with allegations, on camera, of the disappearance and rape of young women. Video here, from Minute 17:42. "You know I do not comment on press reports," the spokesperson said. "I haven't seen it, and I don't think the S-G has seen it either." Well maybe he should:

 Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance

Footnote: We continue to wait for the UK's formal answer to the first of the two questions which Inner City Press asked the UK Mission to the UN two questions on Sri Lanka early on April 15:

Does the UK believe that international law and the rights of UN humanitarian staff are being violated by the now-acknowledged detention of UN staff in the Sri Lankan government's “IDP” camps?

It has been reported this morning that Sri Lanka's “minister also told the British Foreign Secretary that there was concern that the LTTE would continue to consolidate its fortification of the No-Fire Zone.” Please confirm the accuracy of that, and of this and if so, does the UK interpret it as saying that an offensive on the No-Fire Zone and the civilians in it will begin? What did the UK Foreign Secretary say?

  As of this press time weeks later, the formal answer has been referral to Minister Miliband's April 12 statement, and this. On April 21, Inner City Press put the question to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, whose spokesman the following day cleared this response:  "UN personnel should have freedom of movement and be treated with respect." But they are still detained as of this writing. As more answers arrive or are released we will report them on 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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