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After Ban & HRW Silent for 3 Weeks, Face Saving on Silva of Sri Lanka

By Matthew Russell Lee, Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, February 16 -- How could it be that UN Secretary General claimed for three weeks he could do nothing to stop the appointment as a his "Senior Adviser on Peacekeeping Operations" of General Shavendra Silva, whose Division 58 is repeatedly named in connection with war crimes in his own Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka?

   While Ban was at times under fire for being being lax on human rights in his first term, in the last year he tamed critics such as Human Rights Watch. For example, when HRW boss Ken Roth met with Ban, and Inner City Press asked for a mere summary of issues, HRW's representative at the UN, a French former journalist, said that secrecy had to be preserved in order to maintain access, replying that

"To preserve our ability to have frank discussions with UN officials and advance our advocacy goals, we don't typically communicate on the content of discussions we have with them."

This came after Inner City Press quoted a well placed Ban administration source as saying that Team Ban blamed Roth for an NYT editorial, and threatened to cut him off.

And so going forward, HRW praised Ban, and kept their meeting topic secret. Ironically, after this HRW did issue a read out of Roth's meeting with Joe Biden. What's the difference?

Now for example for three weeks Inner City Press has asked Ban and his spokesmen how they can accept a person named in Ban's report on Sri Lanka in connection with war crimes. During all this time, not a peep from HRW (nor, as we'll see, from affiliated media).

  Ban's lead spokesman Martin Nesirky repeatedly in televised UN noon briefing said that Ban can do nothing, and that Inner City Press should "ask the Asia group."

Prior to this development, the Sri Lankan Mission's action was to sent a letter of complaint to Inner City Press, sending a copy to Ban's spokesman as well as to some in the UN press corps. These offered no push back at all -- in fact, several took the SLAPP letter seriously, or claimed to.

Inner City Press in less than 24 hours published and responded to the letter, citing only some of the many references to Silva's Division 58 in the report.

Then, after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told Inner City Press on February 13 she had expressed her "concern" about Silva to Ban, the Sri Lankan mission issued a statement -- not to Inner City Press -- calling the concerns "unethical," and got it reported. Another even slower journalist heard or learned of the exchange on UN television, and sought to claim and shape it.

On February 13, Bangladesh's Permanent Representative Abulkalam Abdul Momen exclusively told Inner City Press that "we were surprised they sent a controversial participant... it's not fair." Adding that Silva "individually is not acceptable," Abulkalam Abdul Momen told Inner City Press, "I, India and Pakistan, we have requested Sri Lanka to fix it up."

On February 14, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesman Eduardo Del Buey about this, and was again told that Ban can do and has done nothing on this.

Outside the UN General Assembly meeting about Syria on February 15, the statement of Bangladesh's Momen was multiply confirmed to Inner City Press. Pakistan's Permanent Representative Haroon told Inner City Press, we hope something beneficial can happen, we will meet about that tomorrow.

This appears to be a meeting smaller than the Asia group as a whole, as another Asia group member told Inner City Press that "it should be Sri Lanka that fixes it, then the group will affirm it."

  Now and only now did HRW give a quote about the issue, to its UN representative's former office mate, who made no mention of the weeks of other work previously done on the story. It's a form of face saving. Watch this site.

(c) UN Photo
Ban, Kim and team meet HRW's Roth and team May 2011, Silva, praise &  read out not shown

Footnote: the Turtle re-posted a report of the Arab League observer mission to Syria four full days after Inner City Press published it, yet labeled it on FP as an "exclusive." Even when an unaffiliated reader directly raised and challenged this "exclusive" mislabeling, nothing was changed, for weeks and counting. This is how it works?

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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