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Sri Lanka Denies UN's Claimed Advocacy for Detained Staff, UK's Des Browne Said on Way to NYC

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, April 18, 1:36 pm, updated -- As in Sri Lanka the “bloodbath on the beach” progresses, the United Kingdom is proclaiming its own diplomatic push at the UN. Sources tell Inner City Press that Gordon Brown's envoy to Sri Lanka, whom the government rejected, is headed to New York to “to visit the UN to speak both with UN spokespersons, whose public statements have been very much in step with ours, as well as with those who do not share all of our views.”

    The latter group includes Security Council veto-wielding members China and Russia, both of which have fought to not have Sri Lanka put on the Council's agenda, and confined the last “informational” briefing by top UN humanitarian John Holmes to the basement of the UN, not the Council chamber or consultation room. Diplomatic protocol being what it is, one would at least expect the Permanent Representatives of the two countries to meet with Mr. Browne and hear him out. Some wonder if it is Des Browne who might finally get the US Obama administration's mass crimes expert Samantha Power involved.

[Update: four hours after this report went online, the UK issued a statement announcing Des Browne's trip, here.]

   If it is true that the UN through its spokespersons are “in step” with the UK, then the UK is not asking for a cease-fire. Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon if he was making such a call, and he did not. On April 17, Ban's Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq responded to Inner City Press' question if Ban's envoy Vijay Nambiar was asking for a cease-fire by saying that the UN is only asking that heavy weapons not be used.

   The UN has also dissembled, it seems, on its advocacy with the Sri Lankan government for its own staff members. On April 13, Inner City Press began asking why the UN had not spoken up about its staff members detained without freedom of movement in the government's camps. Both Haq and then Holmes said that they had been pushing hard with the government.

   But now Sri Lankan “Resettlement” Minister Rishad Baduideen has said that the first the government heard from the UN about the issue was on April 15 -- two days after Inner City Press wrote and asked about it.

UK's Browne and UN's Ban, cease-fire call not shown, nor answers on detentions

  Then, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator Neil Buhne finally wrote a letter to the government, and his office admitted that 11 UN staff members and their families are being detained in camps in Vavuniya.

Until then, “Minister Baduideen said he had not received a letter from the UN and unless they receive a formal complaint that they cannot look into it, and as and when they do they will discuss it with the military officials.... Meanwhile [the spokesman for] UNCEF director Ann Veneman was quoted by the Inner City Press as saying the UNICEF and UN systems staff visiting the area were in contact with their staff in the camps and that they have been prevented from leaving the camps.”

    So the government denies that the UN raised the issue until April 15. Who is to be believed? Watch this site.

Footnote: We continue to wait for the UK's formal answer to the first of the two questions which Inner City Press asked the UK Mission to the UN two questions on Sri Lanka early on April 15:

Does the UK believe that international law and the rights of UN humanitarian staff are being violated by the now-acknowledged detention of UN staff in the Sri Lankan government's “IDP” camps?

It has been reported this morning that Sri Lanka's “minister also told the British Foreign Secretary that there was concern that the LTTE would continue to consolidate its fortification of the No-Fire Zone.” Please confirm the accuracy of that, and of this and if so, does the UK interpret it as saying that an offensive on the No-Fire Zone and the civilians in it will begin? What did the UK Foreign Secretary say?

  As of this press time more than 72 hours later, the formal answer has been referral to Minister Miliband's April 12 statement, and this. As more answers arrive we will report them on this site.

  Click here for a new YouTube 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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