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At UN, Accountability Without Punishment, Sri Lanka Silva May Be Omitted

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 17 -- Accountability is often cited by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, most recently on Wednesday when his spokeman Martin Nesirky answered a question about Libya from Inner City Press. But what does Ban mean by accountability?

On October 16, Ban met with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's special envoy on human rights Mahinda Samarasinghe, and afterward issued a read-out that he "noted the Government's latest efforts on accountability."

Inner City Press covered the photo-op of the meeting and asked Nesirky about it afterward, and again on Wednesday: what did Ban mean by accountability? Does he believe that anyone has been held accountable for the killing of thousands of civilians in 2009? Video here, from Minute 11:50.

  Nesirky answered, "within the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, steps have been taken by the Sri Lankan authorities."

  What steps? Inner City Press asked, "Does accountability mean incarceration, punishment, the loss of a job?" What does Ban Ki-moon mean when he speaks, of Sri Lanka or elsewhere, of accountability?

  Nesirky replied, "it has a broad meaning, depending on the national justice system in place, or where a referral has been made to the International Criminal Court." This was never done on Sri Lanka.

  Finally, Nesirky offered this UN definition of accountability: it means "not letting deeds go unmarked, unnoticed, sot there is no impunity, so you can move on to reconciliation." It means "different things in different contexts."

  Some call this "different things in different contexts" a DOUBLE STANDARD. Some continue to wonder, for example, what accountability "steps... taken by the Sri Lankan authorities" Ban is referring to -- and whether he will make public the Charles Petrie report on the UN's own acts and omissions during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka.

  We can, however, now exclusively report one minor punishment or step for some accountability, with regard to General Shavendra Silva, whose division appears in Ban's own report on presumptive war crimes in the final stages of the conflict but who Ban accepted as a member of his Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations.

  On October 16 a Permanent Representative who is an active member of the Senior Advisory Group came and told Inner City Press with a smile, referring to Silva, "your friend's name will probably not appear on the SAG's report." Perhaps this is the only accountability that Ban's UN offers. And perhaps not even that. Watch this site.

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