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As Mexico Heads UN Council, Sri Lanka Discussed, "Nightmare" May Be Closer

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

UNITED NATIONS, April 2 -- As the UN Security Council's president is taken over by Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller for April, Heller on April 2 told the Press that he is open to additional briefings on the "important" situation in Sri Lanka. Inner City Press asked why, despite what the UN counts as 100,000 civilians still trapped between the government's soldiers and the Tamil Tiger rebels, Sri Lanka did not formally appear on the Council's program of work for April, distributed Thursday at noon.

  "You know very well in the Security Council there are different criteria on Sri Lanka," Ambassador Heller answered. Some countries say it is "not part of the agenda... others, we have maintained, it is important." He called the Council's two briefings to date of "great value," and said "I don't exclude us doing more on the same track." Video here, from Minute 19:23.

  Ambassador Heller noted that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has "taken the initiative to talk" with President Rajapaksa, and that the UN's top humanitarian John Holmes has visited some of the country, but not the conflict zone. [Click here for footage of Holmes' March 26 answers on Sri Lanka.] He might have added the just-begun staged visit of the Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kaelin, on which we hope to report.

   Heller did not, however, address the statement by Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa after Holmes' visit and Ban Ki-moon's phone calls that "we will not cave into pressures from any international quarters, locally and internationally, and will not stop until the war is completely over."

  If Sri Lanka were on the Council's agenda, as countries like Haiti and Guinea-Bissau are, along with Sudan, Somalia and Georgia, statements like President Rajapaksa's would be subject to formal discussion by Council members. Even Colombia, which bristles when raised in the Council, is along with Sri Lanka listed in Annex II of the reports of the Council's Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, which Heller has chaired since January.

  Inner City Press asked Heller about his work as chair of the Group. Heller replied, among other things, that a meeting is soon needed, and that Sri Lanka, along with Myanmar, will be raised at it. Heller said that human rights issues in Sri Lanka, some countries feel, should not come up in the Security Council but "elsewhere in the UN." But where?

Mexico's Heller at UN, averting Sri Lankan "nightmare" not shown

  Sri Lanka's government, meanwhile, accuses those who raise the issue of the plight of civilians at the UN Human Rights Council, which the US now wants to join, as being "LTTE supporters." This is similar to Israel saying that all those who called for a ceasefire in Gaza are supporters of Hamas, or saying that those concerned about Darfurians must be supporters of the Justice and Equality Movement rebels, themselves like the LTTE documented to have recruited child soldiers.

    With the Security Council presidency passing from Libya, which opposed any discussion of Sri Lanka, to Mexico which was the first to request Council meetings on the topic, as Inner City Press exclusively reported on February 5, it seems inevitable that the issue is more likely to be addressed in April.

  But how much more likely, and addressed how? UN officials speaking to Inner City Press on background have already described their "nightmare scenario" of tens of thousands of civilians being killed in a final stand-off. A March 9 UN document has emerged in which the UN predicts just such a fight to the finish. As the civilian death toll rises, culpability will be apportioned.

  Click here for a new YouTube 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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