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UN Runs Scared of Sri Lanka, Says National Staff Not Immune -- But Genocide Suspects Are

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 26 -- As the Sri Lankan government locked up an astrologer who dared make predictions that President Rahinda Rajapaksa didn't like, the UN in New York stayed silent. Inner City Press asked, for the third time, what is being done about the two UN staff members who were grabbed up by the government using unmarked vehicles.

   Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq said he was aware of the question, but that they still have no answer. Inner City Press asked, isn't it the UN's position that its staff members have immunity? Haq acknowledged that it normally the position. But why not in Sri Lanka?

   In fact, the UN Mission in Kosovo actively invoked immunity on June 26 in favor of a person changed with genocide. When Agim Ceku was arrested in Bulgaria, based on an Interpol warrant, it is reported that a UN documentary showing was made in order to get Ceku released. Inner City Press asked Haq about this as well on Friday. Haq said to ask the UNMIK mission.

   Inner City Press immediately put questions to them, but has received no answer. Immunity for those charged with war crimes and genocide, but no defense of immunity for UN staff in Sri Lanka. Why not?

Kosovo's Ceku and UN flag, get out of jail free card not shown in Sri Lanka

   At the Security Council on June 26, speeches went on all day about the protection of civilians. While the UN's top humanitarian John Holmes appeared to downplay Sri Lanka in his initial testimony, other than saying that "the weapons have finally -- and thankfully -- fallen silent in Sri Lanka," the underlying report notes its in 30th paragraph the

"repeated use of heavy weapons by Sri Lankan armed forces in attacks on area containing large numbers of civilians, including the so-called 'no-fire zones,' with reports of multiple strikes on medical facilities."

   Even though the report went on about LTTE refusal to let civilians go, Sri Lanka in the Security Council debate criticized the report. Holmes in his rebuttal was conciliatory, but said that the definition of armed conflict comes from international jurisprudence and applies to Sri Lanka.

   When Holmes emerged from the Security Council at 6:30 p.m., Inner City Press waited to ask him a few questions. "You've got to be kidding," he began, before to his credit answering four questions.

   Did he or the UN do anything about the MV Ali ship of humanitarian aid that was blocked by Sri Lanka? No, Holmes said. But he's heard that it may be unloaded in India and thence to Sri Lanka. This has yet to happened.

   Any update on the detained doctors? No, Holmes said.

   What about the disbanding of the inquiry into the killing of, among others, the 17 Action Contre La Faim aid workers? Holmes said the UN had yet to receive formal notification of the disbanding, and might comment if and when notification is provided.

   What about the detained staff? Holmes said the UN is asking. Aren't they immune? Only international staff are, Holmes said. We will have more on this.

* * *

On Sri Lanka, UK Says IMF Loan's Not Moving, UN Silent on Abducted Staff and Doctors Amid Its Claims of Myanmar

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 25, diplomatized -- Two weeks after the Sri Lankan government grabbed up two UN staffers, using unmarked vehicles, the UN in New York still had nothing to say. Inner City Press asked on June 25, and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson said, "I still don't have anything." Video here, from Minute 15:18.

   Later on June 25, Inner City Press ran after UK minister Lord Mark Malloch Brown to ask if he was the one working on Sri Lanka for his government. "I have," he said. Inner City Press asked, what about Sri Lanka's application for a $1.9 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, on which Malloch Brown's boss David Miliband had spoken -- had the thinking changed?

   "Thinking for what?" Malloch Brown asked."The IMF loan has not gone through." Inner City Press mentioned that the U.S. has appeared to changed its tune.

    "As far as I'm concerned, it's not moving," Malloch Brown said. Inner City Press asked about the two grabbed up UN staff, and that other countries had spoken about it. No one takes a harder line than us, Malloch Brown said.

UN's Ban and UK's Malloch Brown, claims not shown

[Elsewhere at the UN on June 25, Belize's prime minister mocked Malloch Brown as "the noble Lord," saying to take what he said with a "large grain of salt." Video here, from Minute 40:06.]

Footnote: Ban Ki-moon himself appeared on the US television show Charlie Rose on June 24. The host asked about the Economist's critique of Ban's tenure, but cut Sri Lanka out of the quote.

  Ban responded by saying that he had saved 500,000 people in Myanmar. Inner City Press was nearly immediately told by a range of viewers that this was an outrageous claim, akin to Al Gore's claim to have invented the Internet and yet somehow worse. One Tamil who contacted the Press asked, if Ban claims to have saved 500,000 Burmese, what must be be said to have done to 20,000 Tamils? While brutal, there is a logic. We may have more on this.

   At the June 25 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson Michele Montas on what the 500,000 figure was based. "On the number of people in need when he obtained access for humanitarian workers into Sri Lanka," Ms. Montas said. She then corrected herself: "Myanmar, I mean." Video here, from Minute 15:18. It's true -- Ban Ki-moon has yet to get full humanitarian access to the interned people in Sri Lanka. Watch this site.

* * *

Ex-UN's Jan Egeland Describes "Horror" In Sri Lanka, Says R2P Has Failed, UN Silent

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

UNITED NATIONS, June 24 -- While current UN humanitarian coordinator John Holmes has commended the Sri Lankan government for how they are running the UN-funded camps where they have detained 300,000 Tamil civilians, his predecessor Jan Egeland on Tuesday told the Press that we can "safely assume... horrors" in the treatment of "women in Sri Lanka, Tamils," due to the continuing denial of access not only to humanitarian review but also "witnesses." Video here, from Minute 26:06.

   Last week Inner City Press asked for the UN's and Holmes' response to the Sri Lanka government barring even UN workers from bringing cameras into the internment camps. There was no response, nor to the disbanding of the investigation into killings such as that of 17 Action Contre la Faim aid workers near Kilinochchi.

   On June 22 and again on June 24, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson about two UN system staffers grabbed up by the government, by plain clothes men in unmarked vehicles. Even though the UN in Colombo belatedly admitted what happened, Ban's spokesperson on June 24 told the Press "we are trying to get information on what happened, got your question yesterday." Video here, from Minute 10:10.

   But it happened ten days ago, and was asked about on June 22. To many, it begins to be part of the cover-up.

   Egeland was in New York for a UN Colloquium on Conflict Related Sexual Violence in Peace Negotiations. Inner City Press asked for his view of the UN's performance this year in Sri Lanka. "Sri Lanka is the latest example of the world community letting a government get away with denying access, to witnesses, humanitarian relief, protection of civilians," Egeland said.

At but no longer of the UN, Jan Egeland says R2P failed in Sri Lanka

   He said that the Responsibility to Protest, enacted by the UN in 2005, was "not upheld in Sri Lanka, the heads of state have failed." He predicted that conflict will brew because injustice is occurring. He added, that he was not saying this as a UN official, that he is now with the Norwegian Institute on International Affairs.

    In the run up to the Colloquium, two current UN officials came to speak to the Press. Sri Lanka was raised by Inner City Press, and the UN Development Program briefer answered and then said, "that is all off the record."

  Why can't the UN speak on the record about Sri Lanka, as staff are disappeared and civilians killed and locked up?

  Why is it only an ex-UN official who can admit that on Sri Lanka, the UN emperor has no clothes? Watch this site.

Inner City Press' June 18 debate on Sri Lanka, click here

 Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance

  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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