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On Sri Lanka, UK's for UN Council Session Upon Holmes' Return, "Shocking," Robinson Calls It

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

UNITED NATIONS, February 20 -- As the UN's top humanitarian John Holmes continues his government-controlled visit to Sri Lanka, at the UN in New York the Ambassadors of France and the UK expressed concern, and former Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson told Inner City Press that the killing of civilians there, including by the government, is "shocking."  

  Outside a Security Council meeting about Myanmar on Friday morning, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador John Sawers for the second time if the UK is calling for a briefing on Sri Lanka in the Council.  Sawers replied that the UK "supports a briefing of the Security Council on John Holmes return." Video here, from Minute 7:07.

  But at the UN's noon briefing an hour later, Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Michele Montas said that Holmes will be traveling to Colombia immediately after his trip to Sri Lanka. Inner City Press asked Ms. Montas about the reported plane-bombing of Colombo by the Tamil Tigers. "John Holmes is there," she said, "he is better able than anyone to answer." But, conveniently, he will not be available to the Security Council after his trip. When Inner City Press asked about this, Ms Montas said she would try to make him available to talk "between trips, or before another trip." Video here, from Minute 15:03.

   Mary Robinson, at the UN for an event on social justice, took questions at a press conference on Friday afternoon. Inner City Press asked for her views, as former High Commissioner on Human Rights, of the current situation in Sri Lanka. Video here, from Minute 43:30.  She analogized it to Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, saying "we diminish the value of life... if we don't question the disproportionate use of force." Video here, from Minute 45:52. This last is a phrase much used in the UN during Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip in an attempt to attack Hamas.

  Inner City Press asked Ms. Robinson to explain why not only Gaza, but Darfur and the DRC, are on the Security Council's agenda, and received cease fire calls from Ban Ki-moon.  Ms. Robinson answered that that it appears that Sri Lanka's government was convincing that it was on the verge of victory. Video here, from Minute 47:15. But does the plane-bombing undermine even that claim?

Mary Robinson on Feb. 20, free to call Sri Lanka "shocking" as others at UN don't

   Japan's Ambassador Yukio Takasu, this month's president of the Council, told Inner City Press it is difficult to separate his nation's position from his role as president. He decried the Tamil Tigers for "using humanitarian" issues " to promote their military offensive." Video here, from Minute 12:22. He seemed to be implying that any focus on humanitarian suffering only helps the Tamil Tigers. But wouldn't Sudan's government make similar statements? Didn't Israel's?

   Takasu said "I don't want to say human shields," but France's Jean-Maurice Ripert used the term, when asked by Inner City Press for France's position.Video here, from Minute 5:45. He said France is very concerned about "violations by both parties."  Inner City Press asked, should it be discussed in the Council? I don't know, Ripert said, we'll see when Holmes gets back.  In the UN, certainly, he said. We'll see.

Note: while Inner City Press continues to receive entreaties, including from people it respects, to not ask about civilian casualties in Sri Lanka "because it only helps the Tamil Tigers," there must be a way to respond to civilians deaths that is not dismissed as support of terrorists. The questions will continue.

Footnote: a senior UN official, speaking to Inner City Press on condition of anonymity, said the question is what level of civilian death is acceptable. One thousand was deemed too much in Gaza, but 2000 for now seems deemed okay in Sri Lanka. Watch this site.

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

Click here for Inner City Press Nov. 7 debate on the war in Congo

Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

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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