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On Silva, Ambassadors Meet With UN Peacekeeping, Rice Says Concerned, Immunity Letter from USUN Surfaces

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, February 17, updated -- Three weeks ago Inner City Press began asking the UN and then the US Mission to the UN how they could accept as a UN "Senior Adviser on Peacekeeping Operations" General Shavendra Silva, whose Division 58 is repeatedly named in connection with war crimes in Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka.

  On February 14, Bangledesh's Permanent Representative told Inner City Press he, India and Pakistan were telling Sri Lanka to "fix it."

  On February 16, Pakistan's Permanent Representative confirmed this and said there was a meeting on February 17 on the topic. That meeting, of ambassadors with the two Under Secretaries General for peacekeeping, Inner City Press understands, took place Friday at 9:45 am.

At 10:30 am Friday, Inner City Press asked US Ambassador Susan Rice about a letter it found that that Russell F. Graham, Minister Counselor for Host Country Affairs at the US Mission to the UN, provided to Silva's lawyers to tell a US Federal Court that Silva, as Sri Lanka's Deputy Permanent Representative, has diplomatic immunity. On that basis, this case against Silva was dismissed.

  Inner City Press is putting the letter online, here.

Ambassador Rice took the question, some from Inner City Press on Sudan, and said, "These are two different things. The State Department has to respond on immunity. He unfortunately or fortunately is an accredited diplomat."

Then, more generally on Silva, Rice told Inner City Press, "it's very concerning that someone with his background would be selected to serve on this advisory group. We have conveyed this to member states, as well as to the Secretariat. There are a lot of efforts underway to address [this], probably best not to be discussed publicly."

Moments later, another Security Council Permanent Representative approached Inner City Press and said, "on the Sri Lankan, you have done well." Inner City Press has sent questions to USGs Malcorra and Ladsous:

"Hello. Asking for an answer before noon: I understand that on the matter of Shavendra Silva, who is named in the S-G's Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka as in charge of Division 48 which is described engaged in war crimes, ambassadors met with UN Peacekeeping today. I am asking you directly to confirm this, and to state the status of Mr. Silva on the Senior Advisory Group, and at this stage, your view."  

  At Friday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked again, and Ban Ki-moon's Deputy Spokesman Eduardo Del Buey said he had no information, to "ask DPKO's spokesman."

Update of 6:34 pm: DPKO's spokesman has written in to note that in response to the request for a confirmation before the noon briefing, he "visited" and sent a text message. Noted. But the request was clear: confirm, which could be done even in a 160 character text message. The problem here is substantive: a UN Secretary General and Under Secretaries General who "have nothing to say" about an alleged war criminal -- or a commander of a division accused of war crimes - advising them.

  Inner City Press reiterated, it is a question for Ban and his spokespeople, including because Ban's own High Commissioner for Human Rights wrote him on this topic - as she told Inner City Press at the General Assembly stakeout on February 13 -- and because Silva is in Ban's own report.  We are still awaiting an on the record response, which has been re-requested from Ban's office as well as from USG Malcorra and her spokesman.

Update of 2:20 pm, Feb 17: Inner City Press has been sent this by the DPKO spokesman:

"I can confirm that DPKO-DFS leadership today facilitated a meeting with some Member States. As the spokesperson's office has previously said, the selection for this position on the Special Advisory Group is for the Member States. Since the selection has become known to the Secretariat, we have actively facilitated Member States in their discussions to consider this matter. We have nothing to say at this stage on our views of the membership of the Special Advisory Group."

   What does it say about Ban's UN that it "has nothing to say" about the nomination as a "Senior Adviser" on Peacekeeping of a military commander named in Ban's own Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka as engaged in the shelling of hospitals and presumptive execution of those seeking to surrender?

  Prior to these developments, the Sri Lankan Mission's action was to send a letter of complaint to Inner City Press, sending a copy to Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky as well as to some in the UN press corps.

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.

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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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