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UN: Sri Lanka


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On Way to Auschwitz, Ban Omits Sri Lanka From Rwanda, Srebrenica & Cambodia

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 17 -- Today in Vilnius Ban Ki-moon spoke about genocide and crimes against humanity, but did not mention the 40,000 civilians killed in 2009 in Sri Lanka, where he also did not comment on crackdowns during the just-concluded Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

  Four times last week, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokespeople for any comment as media was blocked from traveling to the North (where Ban did go, as a form of victory tour, in May 2009), and families of the disappeared banned from traveling south to Colombo.

  No comment (video here). At last his spokespeople said to ask another UN official, Navi Pillay (Inner City Press did; see below, and this longer form analysis, at Beacon Reader.)

  Then on Sunday in Lithuania, Ban Ki-moon's prepared speech said this:

Tomorrow, November 18, I will visit the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau to pay tribute to the victims -- above all the Jews of many nations, but also the Roma, homosexuals, dissidents, the disabled and mentally ill -- anyone the Nazis deemed inferior according to their appalling racial theories.

In recent years, I have stood with the widows of Srebrenica, paid my respects at the mass graves in Kigali and visited the genocide memorial in Phnom Penh.

I believe it is absolutely essential to see the concentration camps, to stand with survivors, and to proclaim our commitment to remembrance of the past and prevention for the future.

  So why not mention Sri Lanka? Not only given the timely issues raised during the CHOGM, but Ban's own belated announcement this month of a "Rights Up Front" Plan? Inner City Press first published the plan (and then was told that it "might or might not exist"); now it has yet to be made a formal, public UN document, and Ban did not mention it what he said in Vilnius.

  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, after Inner City Press asked, sent this back, through spokesperson Rupert Colville:

"We're not commenting on CHOGM per se, but it is good to see that human rights have been an extremely prominent issue during the build-up. The High Commissioner raised a wide range of issues herself at the end of her visit to Sri Lanka on 31 August, and also in her update to the Human Rights Council on 25 September. As for reported incidents in the past few days, we constantly keep an eye on the situation facing human rights defenders and journalists in Sri Lanka, and will continue to do so. The High Commissioner is also acutely aware of the difficulties facing the families of the disappeared, and indeed met with many of them during her visit."

So what will happen on this before and in March? Watch this site.


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