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At UN, Asked Of Withholding Casualty Figures, Ban Ki-moon Says Sri Lanka Made Threats, Nambiar Involved in Inaction

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 26 -- After the Sri Lanka war crimes report by the UN Panel of Experts was quietly presented to the UN Security Council by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Inner City Press asked Ban two questions about the report.

Among his answers on Sri Lanka, Ban implicitly acknowledged the report's charge that the UN withheld casualty figures during the conflict.

  Asked  to "respond to the criticisms in the report that the UN failed in those last months to do what it could to help protect civilians, including keeping statistics of the actual casualty figures back," Ban said that the Sri Lankan authorities said that they couldn't guarantee the safety of UN staff:

the security situation was very precarious, at the last stage of the crisis. And we were told by the Sri Lankan Government, as I understand and remember, that the Sri Lankan Government would not be able to ensure the safety and security of United Nations missions there. Then we were compelled to take the necessary action according to their advice.”

So, allowing the Rajapaksas to in essence point a gun at UN staff, Ban's UN withheld the facts about how many civilians were being killed. At the time, UN whistleblowers gave Inner City Press an internal count of deaths by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which the UN in New York refused to confirm even after Inner City Press published it.

Asked about his senior adviser Vijay Nambiar's role in the White Flag killings, Ban dodged the question by saying he will set up a review of the UN's performance, after consulting with his senior advisers -- that is, with Nambiar:

I will try to review the work and performance of the United Nations missions in Sri Lanka at that time. I am going to discuss this matter with my senior advisors.”

Ban's cover letter to the report stated that for an “investigation mechanism, [Ban] is advised that this will require host country consent or a decision from Member States through an appropriate intergovernmental forum.”

Inner City Press asked Ban WHO advised him of this, and why after Ban three times claimed the Panel's members could travel to Sri Lanka, they ultimately did not.

Ban did not say who advised him, rather saying that he would welcome a mandate voted by Member States in an intergovernmental forum:

about the future course of action, it is true and it is a fact that if I want to establish any independent international commission of inquiry, I will need to have a clear mandate from an intergovernmental body or the consent of the Sri Lankan Government.”

But when asked if he was requesting the Security Council to take the matter up and vote whether to start an investigation, Ban merely said that all members have the report. So, he is not asking.

Ban & M. Rajapaksa, Nambiar & actual investigation not shown

This was confirmed by April's Security Council President Nestor Osorio of Colombia, who when Inner City Press asked if Ban had requested a vote in the Council replied that “we just took note” of the report, calling this the “normal course of justice.” But Ban says without a vote, there can be no investigation -- and refused to specify who gave him this advice.

Inner City Press asked Ban to explain his three statements that the Panel could go to Sri Lanka, and the fact that they were not allowed to go. They tried very hard, Ban said, then referred to the meeting, made secret at the time, by Attorney General Mohan Peiris with the Panel:

We have been trying very hard to get the Sri Lankan Government to [agree to a visit] by the Panel of Experts. They have been very reluctant to receive the Panel of Experts. Finally they dispatched some high-level officials who met the Panel of Experts.”

That is a meeting which the UN initially denied took place. What explains all these irregularities? What gun might the Rajapaksa government have pointed? Watch this site.

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On Sri Lanka, After Ban Passes Buck to UN Councils, UN Won't Say If He's Raise to UNSC or Who Advised Him

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 26 -- The UN was unable or unwilling to answer questions about its Panel of Experts report into Sri Lanka war crimes on Tuesday, a day after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon belatedly released the report.

Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky three questions at Tuesday's noon briefing, not one of which was answered.

Ban's cover letter accompanying the report stated that for an “investigation mechanism, [Ban] is advised that this will require host country consent or a decision from Member States through an appropriate intergovernmental forum.”

Inner City Press asked, twice, BY WHOM was Ban advised that he doesn't have the power to investigate? Nesirky would not say. At opening the briefing, Nesirky had called it an “advisory” report. But the advise on what Ban can't do is not from the report.

Given a number of seeming errors in the report, such as misidentifying in Paragraph 171 the role of Presidential brother Basil Rajapaksa in the so-called White Flag killings in which Ban's own chief of staff Vijay Nambiar has acknowledged he was involved, without recusing himself from review of the report, Inner City Press asked Nesirky to explain this error, and to clarify Basil's role. Inner City Press had previously posed this question, and ones about Nambiar, by e-mail to Nesirky and his deputy Farhan Haq.

I will have to check that, Nesirky said, adding that the Panel's work has ceased when it turned the report in. Why this is being done differently that Ban's panel on the murder of Benazir Bhutto, on which a press conference with questions and answer with the Panel chairman was held after the release has not been explained.

Even if one accepted Ban's argument for his own powerlessness, which Amnesty International and others do not, Ban could formally ask an intergovernmental body to vote on an investigation of war crimes in Sri Lanka.

Ban will be briefing the Security Council then the press on Tuesday afternoon. He will tell the Council not only about this recent trip to Ukraine, Hungary, Russia and elsewhere, but also about Cote d'Ivoire and, Nesirky said, Sri Lanka.

Inner City Press asked Nesirky if Ban will be asking the Security Council to take up and vote on his panel's recommendation for an international investigation of war crimes in Sri Lanka, since Ban is advised -- by whom, we still do not know, beyond noting it is the Rajapaksa's and Vijay Nambiar's position -- that he cannot order an investigation himself. Nesirky did not answer that either. Watch this site.

From the Panel of Experts report:

The "White Flag" incident

170. Various reports have alleged that the political leadership of the LTTE and their dependents were executed when they surrendered to the SLA. In the very final days of the war, the head of the LTTE political wing, Nadesan, and the head of the Tiger Peace Secretariat Pulidevan, were in regular communication with various interlocutors to negotiate surrender. They were reportedly with a group of around 300 civilians. The LTTE political leadership was initially reluctant to agree to an unconditional surrender, but as the SLA closed in on the group in their final hideout, Nadesan and Pulidevan, and possibly Colonel Ramesh, were prepared to surrender unconditionally. This intention was communicated to officials of the United Nations and of the Governments of Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as to representatives of the ICRC and others. It was also conveyed through intermediaries to Mahinda, Gotabaya and Basil Rajapaksa, former Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona and senior officers in the SLA.

171. Both President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Basil Rajapaksa [sic?] provided assurances that their surrender would be accepted. These were conveyed by intermediaries to the LTTE leaders, who were advised to raise a white flag and walk slowly towards the army, following a particular route indicated by Basil Rajapaksa.[sic?]  Requests by the LTTE for a third party to be present at the point of surrender were not granted. Around 6.30 a.m. on 18 May 2009. Nadesan and Pulidevan left their hide-out to walk towards the area held by the 58th Division, accompanied by a large group, including their families. Colonel Ramesh followed behind them, with another group. Shortly afterwards, the BBC and other television stations reported that Nadesan and Pulidevan had been shot dead. Subsequently, the Government gave several different accounts of the incident. While there is little information on the circumstances of their death, the Panel believes that the LTTE leadership intended to surrender.

  On the morning of April 21, Inner City Press asked Ban's top two spokesmen to "please state the role of Mr. Nambiar in reviewing the report." No response has yet been received, more than 60 hours later. We will have more on this. Watch this site.

 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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