Lankan Government Used Plainclothes Men in Unmarked Cars to Grab UN
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, June 23 -- While the UN in New York still refuses to confirm
Lanka has detained two Tamil staff members, the acting
Country Coordinator, UNHCR's Amim Awar, has told local staff that
the two men were picked up on June 11 and 12 "by plain clothes
men, who did not identify themselves, and who were driving an
Many who disappear that way, particularly in
the notorious white vans, are subsequently killed. That such tactics
have been deployed by the government onto UN staff who are, at least
elsewhere, immune signifies the degree of the UN's debasement in Sri
Awar's message to staff, obtained by Inner City Press and published
below and attached,
says that 12 days after the detentions, the UN
been officially informed of the detention, the reasons for this
detention, the allegations, if any, of charges that might have been
laid against the staff members, or the location of their detention.
We understand that their families have not been officially informed.
sought legal advice as to whether the manner in which these men were
taken followed due process. The UN acknowledges without reservation
the right of the security services of Sri Lanka to investigate any
allegations of criminal wrongdoing, including by UN staff members,
and will cooperate fully to support due process. However it is our
position that any investigation must comply with Sri Lankan national
law and be transparent."
when UN peacekeepers commit rape or sexual abuse, for example in the
Congo, they are not allowed to be arrested by the national
authorities. In the US, if the government wants to arrest or even
question a UN staff member, the Secretary General has to waive
immunity. Not in Sri Lanka, apparently.
June 22, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Michele
City Press:it emerged over the weekend that two more UN staff members
had been detained by the Government of Sri Lanka. Reportedly, a
driver for UNOPS and a driver for UNHCR. Is OCHA aware of that? And
what’s being done to find out why they were detained?
Montas: Okay. I’ll try to find out more on that. Very soon.
more than 30 hours later, no information has been provided by the UN
in New York.
UN's Ban between cameras of Sri Lanka staff, detentions not yet shown
The June 23 noon briefing was canceled, to encourage
reporters to go cover a Ban Ki-moon press conference outside of the
UN at which questions were limited to climate change.
the Spokesperson's Office, the previous practice of letting the Press
view the Office's compilation for Ban Ki-moon of world news headlines
has abruptly been discontinued. The explanation is that now Ban wants
analysis along with the headlines and summaries, and it would be
inappropriate for the Press to see this "format."
the UN's internal News Monitoring Unit compiles articles about the
Secretary General and allows a search by Positive, Neutral and
Negative coverage. Strangely, despite the Economist review and
Foreign Policy, on June 22 in the UN data base there were no negative
reviews listed or included. Hear no evil, see no evil. We will have
more on this.
City Press' June 18 debate on Sri Lanka, click here
from Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator
of UN staff members
may be aware that two UN staff members went missing in Vavuniya on 11
and 12 of June. You may have heard the news from colleagues, or have
seen reports in the media.
the facts as we understand them
today, the two staff members in question were taken away by plain
clothes men, who did not identify themselves, and who were driving an
unmarked vehicle. One UNHCR staff member was taken from his home, and
the UNOPS staff member was taken the following day from a service
station, where he had stopped to refuel his vehicle. The UN was not
informed by the authorities, and it was only after conducting
inquiries that we were able to learn informally that the staff
members had in fact been taken by the Sri Lankan security services.
To date, we have not been officially informed of the detention, the
reasons for this detention, the allegations, if any, of charges that
might have been laid against the staff members, or the location of
their detention. We understand that their families have not been
officially informed. Under Sri Lankan Law, Emergency Regulation 20
(9) when a person is taken into custody, a receipt should be issued
to family members or accompanying person acknowledging the arrest /
have sought legal advice as to whether the manner in which these men
were taken followed due process. The UN acknowledges without
reservation the right of the security services of Sri Lanka to
investigate any allegations of criminal wrongdoing, including by UN
staff members, and will cooperate fully to support due process.
However it is our position that any investigation must comply with
Sri Lankan national law and be transparent.
are in constant contact with the government over our concerns, and
have issued official communiqués to the government detailing
We are keeping our respective headquarters closely informed, as well
as Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon. When UN staff members are
detained it is standard practice for the UN to have direct contact
with such persons. We will attempt to keep you informed in a timely
manner through these bulletins of these matters.
Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator
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Sri Lanka Arrests Two UN Staff, UNHCR Offers Praise After Staying Silent
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
NATIONS, June 19 -- Two UN staff members were disappeared by the Sri
Lankan government six days ago in Vavuniya. For days, the UN said
nothing. An e-mail was sent to Inner City Press, along with a photo
of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon meeting with the staff in
Vavuniya on May 23. Those disappeared served as drivers for the UN
Office of Project Services and UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency.
some inquiries, the UN belatedly announced that two staff had been
arrested, leading to short articles in the Indian and Canadian press,
neither of which included the staff members' names. They are
Kandasamy "Saundi" Saundrarajan of UNOPS and N. Charles
Raveendran of UNHCR. They are Tamils.
country officer for Sri Lanka Amin Awar continued to praise
the government and the internment camps in Vavuniya. While in Sri
Lanka in May, Inner City Press published
a story about another UNHCR
staffer, detained by the government since last year.
Awar, who had not responded to an emailed request to comment on the
case, approached this reporter in the lobby of the Colombo Hilton on
May 23 and argued that the court system in Sri Lanka is complex, but
said he was advocating for the detained man.
No update has been
provided, and now two more staffers, including one from UNHCR, are
detained. How much more will the UN put up with, or as some say,
email, lightly edited, is below.
UN's Ban and Vavuniya staff, standing up for them not shown
2 UN Staff abducted 4 days ago and now believed to be tortured by Sri
Lankan Army Military Intelligence - Pls Help to Release them
[Name withheld for fear of retaliation or worse]
Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress.com
write this email in desperation seeking your help to put more
pressure on Sri Lankan Authorities and release 2 United Nations Staff
( I from UNOPS and 1 from UNHCR ) abducted by Sri Lankan Army
Military Intelligence Officials in Vavuniya four days ago and
currently detained. We have tried all the possible escalations within
UN, including an urgent message to our Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
but nothing has helped so far.
reliably learn that they are now being detained and tortured at a Sri
Lankan Army Military Intelligence interrogation camp in Kurumankadu,
Vavuniya and since it is weekend no one is taking it serious &
taking some bold action for their release or access to them &
ensure they are safe.
our May30th Sit Report, our ground officers have highlighted the
wide spread abductions and accounted for more than 13,310 missing
people in Vavuniya IDP Camps, compared to the previous count. But our
higher management in Colombo and Geneva has decided to downplay it
and reported it as, “decrease is associated with double counting.
Additional verification is required”. They never initiated a
project for additional verification. Now we feel the pain of
abduction when two of our colleagues are abducted.
of our Vavuniya UN Team Group Photo with Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon when he visited Vavuniya last month, attached.
don’t know when we will see our colleagues again and the same smile
... please help.
to security issues we cant talk on phone and sending this email with
great difficulty & hope you will understand it.
UN Staff, Sri Lanka
* * *