UN Mulls Sri Lankan Murder Video, Report on Camps Withheld, UK
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, August 26 -- When a war crime is filmed and presented to the
UN, will it take action? On August 26, Inner City Press asked three
officials at the UN about the now widely circulated video
depicting Sri Lankan soldiers shooting naked, blindfolded victims
At the noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN
Spokesperson Michele Montas about "footage of what appears to be
Sri Lankan soldiers shooting naked, bound, unarmed people
[inaudible]. Is there any response by the UN to that footage?"
There was not.
Later another UN official said that the Office of the
High Commissioner for Human Rights is considering how to authenticate
the footage, perhaps with outside experts, in order to act on it. But
Council stakeout, Inner City Press asked the president of the Council
for this dwindling month, the UK's John Sawers, if he'd seen the
footage and what the UK proposes to do about it. He replied that
"first," he was appearing as President of the Council. He
said he hadn't yet seen the footage but had read about it. It does
seem "disturbing," he said, adding that it should be
investigated "in the first instance by the Sri Lanka
authorities." Video here,
from Minute 6:12.
Rajapaksa administration has already curtailed its investigation into
the killing of 17 aid workers of Action
Contre La Faim, and declared
that its soldiers committed abuses. (Others in the administration
have said that winners are never tried for war crimes.) So at this
late date to defer to Sri Lanka to investigate the snuff film seems
UN's Ban views Manik Farm camp in May, deaths not shown
in Sri Lanka, the level of disappointment at the UN and Ban Ki-moon
has grown. The groups are meeting one last time with UN country
representative Neil Buhne, to urge him to go public with the evidence
the UN has compiled. They say that Tamil females in the camps are
being used as comfort women. They say that UN has a report showing
that many people will die when the monsoon season comes if they
remain trapped in the camps. The UN is not releasing this report,
they say, asking why Ban Ki-moon appears so beholding to Rajapaksa.
Sri Lanka, the
administration is said to be concerned on this by only three things:
Delhi's reaction, an upcoming report to the U.S. Congress, and how
Rajapaksa is received at the UN General Assembly next month. Watch
* * *
UN, A Call for An Envoy for Sri Lanka, Murder as Diagnosis, Footage
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, August 25, updated
-- People in Sri Lanka expected more from the UN
than a couple of phone calls and a Joint Statement with President
Rajapaksa, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu of the Colombo-based Center for
Policy Alternatives told the Press on Tuesday. Following Dr.
of an anonymous death threat last week, a
press conference was hastily organized inside the UN in New York.
Roughly half of the questions asked by journalists concerned the
death threats. Others concerned Saravanamuttu's assessment of the
performance of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his chief of
staff and enjoy, Vijay Nambiar.
Diplomatically, Saravanamuttu called
both of them "disappointing." He noted that no UN Security
Council member had pushed hard to get the bloody conflict onto the
Council's agenda. A European Council member staffer was in the audience
did not disagree, but afterwards argued to Inner City Press that even
Sri Lanka were on the agenda, action could have been blocked by a
veto. The staffer also confessed to knowing little about the GPS Plus
tariff dispute that triggered the death threat to Saravanamuttu.
Saravanamuttu mentioned the roles
of Russia and China, and
non-Council member India. Asked why the UK, France and U.S. had not
pushed harder in the Council, Saravanamuttu said "I guess we
are not that important."
described a case pending before the Sri Lankan Supreme Court seeking
to assert the human rights of the Tamils in the government's
internment camps in the north. Again diplomatically, he said that the
court does not share the "urgency" of the situation. An
audience member, a journalist from India, asked about the recent
extraordinary rendition of successor Tamil Tiger leader K.P. from
Malaysia. Saravanamuttu said that little is known about how the
seizure was done. Could one bring a habeus
corpus like petition
before the court? The Supreme Court, he said, would have to give
leave to proceed.
of the attendees expressed surprise at how "moderate" Saravanamuttu
was. He repeatedly criticized the LTTE, he called
Mahinda Rajapaksa "his Excellency." He said he expected the
government of Sri Lanka to protect him. He is on his way, after
another UN visit on Wednesday, to a U.S. State Department event about
Sri Lanka in Washington, an another session at the U.S. Institute of
in the audience Tuesday were representatives of Human Rights Watch
and Amnesty International, as well as Oxfam which asked if
Saravanamuttu was meeting with any UN officials while in town. I've
met some in the past, Saravanamuttu said. This time, apparently not.
Ban Ki-moon, who just returned from holiday in South Korean, leaves
Thursday for Vienna and Norway.
Mahinda Rajapaksa in Myanmar, June 2009
humanitarian John Holmes, who
once spoke of the blood bath on the beach, is on vacation. "Bloody
Mary on the beach," one wag snarked, while the UN-funded camps
are full of excrement and the monsoons are coming. Saravanamuttu's
great hope seemed to be that Ban will, as he's done with Jean-Maurice
Ripert in Pakistan, name a special envoy. Let's see if he does. Watch
Perhaps triggering an end to full impunity for the outrages of
earlier this year, now video has emerged of soldiers shooting
blindfolded unarmed men, click
here to view. But will any tribunal or
anyone in the UN system take action?
Update of 10:37 p.m.
-- as the Channel 4 clip of a filmed war crime by Sri Lankan military
is forwarded, Inner City Press understands that the question will arise
at the August 26 U.S. State Department press briefing: watch this site.
the death of Mahinda Rajapaksa's nephew Shyamlal Rajapaksa in Tanzania,
yesterday quoting UN Spokesperson Michele Montas that
the preliminary finding is that he was murdered has been picked
the Sri Lankan press, including some denunciation
publication. For the record, the quote that "he was murdered"
is directly from UN Spokesperson Michele Montas. Video here,
from Minute 10:03; transcript here
City Press: A cousin of the President of Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa, died
in Tanzania. Was apparently an employee, or a prosecutor for the
court on the Rwandan genocide. His mother has said that the UN is
somehow covering it up and that there is some UN investigation of his
death and some issue around the payment of the insurance. What’s
the UN’s response to this, I guess, response by a relative of the
President of Sri Lanka?
Michele Montas: Well, in this specific case, as you
know, he was working for … as a prosecutor. We could only confirm
that he was found dead in his home and that there were preliminary
findings, police findings is that he
has been murdered. This is all we know. The investigation is being done
Tanzanian and Sri Lankan law enforcement officials. So, I really
don’t have anything more to say, as long as they have not really
reported to us on exactly the facts of the case.
City Press: She seems to say something about insurance. Is there any
difference in the payment of UN insurance based on the cause of
that I know of, and I can… check that. At any rate, it is
Spokesperson: …to the
extent that we don’t have yet the result of the