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UN Regulation Bans Reporting War Crimes, Even After UN Sri Lanka Failure

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 16 -- Asked about his report into the UN's failure in Sri Lanka, Charles Petrie on November 15 told Inner City Press that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Susana Malcorra is "championing" the report's reform recommendations.

  The report, especially as un-redacted, shows how the highest officials at UN headquarters in New York urged that casualty figures not be released, and the term "war crimes" not be used.

  One simple reform would be to free up all UN personnel to report war crimes or crimes against humanity when they become aware of them, even if discouraged by higher UN officials, as took place in the case of Sri Lanka.

   This is NOT currently the case. As Inner City Press reported on Friday morning, and asked the UN about, it has received multiple complaints about an October 22, 2012 letter from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Susana Malcorra to staff, "with reference to your statement that you will bring certain internal issues to the attention of Member States," drawing their "attention to staff regulation 1.2 (i)" which she wrote applies to "all staff members."

  Inner City Press has looked this UN Regulation, and it applies even after "separation from [UN] service." Here is the regulation:

"(i) Staff members shall exercise the utmost discretion with regard to all matters of official business. They shall not communicate to any Government, entity, person or any other source any information known to them by reason of their official position that they know or ought to have known has not been made public, except as appropriate in the normal course of their duties or by authorization of the Secretary-General. These obligations do not cease upon separation from service."

  By its terms, there is no exception or carve-out for reporting war crimes or crimes against humanity; some read the Petrie report (and the underlying history) as showing that authorization would not necessarily be forthcoming from on high at UN Headquarters.

  Inner City Press asked the UN, without yet receiving a serious answer, whether former UN staff are under any restriction in what they say about what they saw and did in Sri Lanka. By UN Regulation 1.2(i) which Ban's chief of staff cited in writing as recently as last month, such former staff ARE restricted.

   Or is UN Regulation 1.2(i) only enforced, one might ask, if it makes current UN officials look bad? There is also no exception made in the Regulation for reporting wrongdoing, despite the UN's ostensible allowance for whistleblowers.

  (By this logic, one might ask if former UN official John Holmes, who leaped to the defense of the UN and himself in responding to the Petrie report, was spinning under the "authorization of the Secretary-General.")

  So here is a simple reform: instead of threatening (as they perceive it) UN staff with the above quoted regulation, amend it to made clear that staff can, even should, externally report war crimes or crimes against humanity when they witness or become aware of them. There will be more. Watch this site.

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