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On Sri Lanka, Ban Has Not Asked UN GA to Act, Web Shutdown Ignored

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 28 -- Three days after belatedly releasing the UN Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has not asked either the Security Council or the General Assembly to take any action to investigate the war crimes detailed in the report.

 Nor does he have any comment on the shutdown of an Internet publication critical of the Rajapaksa government.

Inner City Press first asked outgoing Security Council president Nestor Osorio of Colombia if Ban had asked the Council to take the issue up. No, Osorio said, we just took note of it, it was routine.

On April 28, Inner City Press posed the same question to the spokesman for General Assembly President Joseph Deiss:

Inner City Press: The report came out this week, it was issued at last by the UN on presumptive war crimes in Sri Lanka, and it said that the Secretary-General should implement an international investigative mechanism. The Secretary-General has said he will only do that, he believes he… he’s advised he can only do that if there is a vote, either Sri Lanka agrees, which isn’t happening, or there is a vote by Member States and an intergovernmental body, one of which is the General Assembly. So, I wanted to know, has the Secretariat made any request that you are aware of whether to Deiss or to any committee or in any way to the General Assembly for that this matter be taken up, that this 200 page war crimes report be considered in the General Assembly?

PGA Spokesperson: Three things: First, I will check and come back to you if there has been such a request. Second, you certainly do not expect me to comment on statements that the Secretary-General may or may not have made. The first thing is that, indeed, the Human Rights Council is a subsidiary organ to the General Assembly, and we’ll have to wait that initial steps be taken at the level of Geneva before we can jump into that.

Inner City Press: Ban Ki-moon asked for the General Assembly to consider the credentials on Côte d'Ivoire. That was very open, it was done immediately.... maybe I have missed it, has Ban Ki-moon made any similar request for General Assembly action on this matter?

PGA Spokesperson: We are not in disagreement, but even on the question of Côte d'Ivoire, I would like to add a caveat, that it was not that immediate as — in repeating the word that you used. What happened is that it first had to go through the Credentials Committee, and then the Credentials Committee had to submit a report, and a resolution was thereafter submitted and adopted at the General Assembly. So, these things always have to follow a procedure. I know, it can be sometimes frustrating for some, but we have to abide by what is set in the procedures.

Inner City Press: I just wanted to know whether any request is, are you aware of any request to the General Assembly as Mr. Ban did in that instance, I mean, he said publicly there was a meeting on the North Lawn Building with the General Assembly, and he said “I’d like you do x”, and they did it.

Spokesperson: On that, I said, I will check and come back to you, and if you can maybe call me this afternoon, we’ll find out.

Inner City Press waited for the rest of Thursday, finally speaking with the spokesman in the General Assembly President's office after 5 pm. He said, having checked, that the UN Secretariat has not made any such request to the General Assembly.

Ban takes Qs April 26, Sri Lanka not shown in UN caption

Nor does the Secretariat have any comment on the shutdown of Lanka E-news. Inner City Press asked Ban's acting deputy spokesman Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: since the publication of the Panel of Experts report there has been… the Lanka e-News, an opposition or non-Government-controlled media there has been ordered shut. There are also these calls for protests on 1 May by Minister [Wimal] Weerawansa and others. What would you have to say to Sri Lankan Government ministers planning protests at UN premises on 1 May?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: Well, first of all, regarding these reports, we would need to check on that. But, of course, we want to make sure that all media are able to exercise, to go about their work freely, as in all countries. Secondly, regarding the 1 May demonstrations, in light of the demonstrations that took place in July, it would be unacceptable if the authorities failed to prevent any disruption of the normal functioning of the UN offices in Sri Lanka as a result of unruly protests. As the host country, the Government has responsibilities towards UN personnel and assets, so as to ensure the continuation of the vital work of the Organization without any hindrance or threats to the security of its personnel or facilities. And we have reminded the Government of its responsibility and trust that this will be done.

This last was picked up in Sri Lanka -- but not by the shut down Lanka E-news. Watch this site.

* * *

On Sri Lanka, Ban Claims UN Couldn't Assess Casualties, Leak Shows UN Did

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 27 -- On Sri Lanka, UN “staff were not in the position to assess” the number of casualties in 2009, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky told the Press on April 27, as they had to withdraw because the Government said security could not be guaranteed.

But as Inner City Press reported and published on March 27, 2009, a detailed UN document it obtained reported that the "minimum number of documented civilian casualties since 20 January 2009, as of 7 March 2009 in the conflict area of Mullaitivu Region [is] 9,924 casualties including 2,683 deaths and 7,241 injuries.”

Click here for the leaked document, and here for Inner City Press' report which exclusively published it.

Ban's UN refused to confirm its own Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs casualty figures. It now appears, including based on statements by staff who have since left the UN, that Ban's UN consciously decided to withhold and once leaked deny the casualty information it WAS in the position to compile.

Nesirky on April 27, when Inner City Press followed up on questions it put to Ban the previous day, said that this topic and others will now be reviewed by the UN, by Ban and his senior advisers.

Inner City Press asked Nesirky if Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, who was involved in the White Flag killings which appear in the UN report at Paragraph 171, will be one of the senior advisers involved in the review.

“There are many senior advisers,” Nesirky said, adding that the review “will look at the full range of topics contained” in the report.

The question remains: should a senior adviser like Nambiar be allowed to play any role in the review of an incident he was involved in? The answer should have been, and should be, no -- but hasn't been.

Inner City Press asked if this review will be made public. Nesirky would not say, but acknowledged that there is a public interest in it. With 40,000 civilians reportedly killed, yes there is a public interest.

Amazingly, after Ban said he “is advised” that the report's recommendations can only be investigated if the Rajapaksa government consents or members states vote for it in an intergovernmental forum, Ban when he reported on Sri Lanka to the UN Security Council on April 26 did not even ask them to schedule a vote on the recommendation for an investigation of war crimes. We'll have more on this.

* * *

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.

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.

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.

* * *

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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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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