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UN: Sri Lanka


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As UN's Zeid Intones on Libya & Egypt, Sri Lanka Deferral Echoes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 17 -- On the beheading of Egyptian Copts in Libya and Egypt's air strikes since, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Tuesday intoned that "the brutal murder of these men, and the ghastly attempt to justify and glorify it in a video, should be roundly condemned by everyone."

    Zeid also said that "in their response, the Egyptian air force must ensure full respect of the principles of distinction between civilians and fighters, and civilians objects and military objectives.”

   These are fine sentiments. But on February 16, Zeid delayed for six months the release of a report on Sri Lanka killing Tamil civilians in 2009, including summary executions captured on cell phone video.

  What message did that send? Show restraint, or change leaders and get a deferral?

Zeid's decision echoes the withholding of the South Sudan human rights report, here. So much for accountability.

  In the run-up to Zeid's decision, new Sri Lankan foreign minister Samaraweera met February 13 with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by Sri Lankan ambassador Palitha Kohona, a player in the White Flag Murders part of the report.  Inner City Press story and video here.

  This is the same UN which accepted Sri Lankan military figure Shavendra Silva as an adviser on Peacekeeping Operations. Enough is enough.

  Perhaps now Sudan can claim it didn't ban a probe of mass rapes in Tabit in Darfur, it only "deferred" investigation - not even yet for the six month term Zeid's granted to Sri Lanka.

  Zeid has offered his "one time only" reasoning we link to it, here. Of Zeid's reign so far at OHCHR in Geneva we have reported on staff at the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights petitioning Zeid for due process and accountability. Inner City Press obtained the petition and is exclusively put it online here.

In it, the OHCHR staff call for “transparent and comprehensive information on prospective cuts and restructuring, detailing their impact on savings and OHCHR’s overall financial situation... tangible accountability measures by attributing responsibility for the present crisis and taking the requisite action to prevent another financial crisis of this magnitude in the future and a meaningful dialogue and truly consultative decision-making on ongoing financial including putting decisions on hold.”

The staff complain to Zeid that “the lack of transparency, consultation and information on who, where or how, not to mention why, some of us are affected is deplorable and unacceptable.”

The lack of transparency in the current OHCHR extends from Geneva to New York, where the Office anonymously spun its Ukraine report to hand-picked scribes then refused when asked to explain the basis.

 Inner City Press on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access asked at the November 20 UN noon briefing that the New York representative of Prince Zeid hold a press availability about the report, including incongruities in report on labor issues such as the cut-off of pensions, click here for that.

  On accountability, the staff complain that the “senior management level evidently bears much more responsibility. Yet, it is other individuals at lower levels who are paying the price for this mismanagement.”

Also on accountability at the OHCHR, as Inner City Press has twice reported, document leaks from inside the UN have identified improper service of Morocco, on the question of Western Sahara, by a current staffer at the OHCHR, Anders Kompass, and by another who has recently left.

 Prince Zeid has yet to publicly address this scandal, though Inner City Press understands that no only is their an investigation by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, but also inquiry from member states such as Sweden. Inquiry on them was not permitted at Zeid's one press availability this week in New York. Zeid's spokesman has indicated there will be no comment at all until OIOS' "investigation is completed." Since the OIOS process is far from transparent, this is the way the UN system tries to make issues go away, but it is even less appropriate at the UN's human rights office.

   Zeid should address this scandal - and his Office's staff. Watch this site.


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