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As Sri Lanka Army Shown in War Crimes, UN Hasn't See, UNclear

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 10 -- Amid debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva about belatedly trying to hold the Sri Lankan government accountable for war crimes in 2009, a damning new video has been released by UK Channel 4. Click here; warning: graphic.

  But when Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's new spokesperson Stephane Dujarric about it on March 10, he replied, "I haven't seen the video." He said that his predecessor had spoken clearly on Sri Lanka in the last few days. See Inner City Press YouTube of the exchange, here.

  Actually, most recently Ban's office was UNclear about whether the Rajapaksa government has invited him to Colombo in May for a youth conference. When asked about accountability, the answer was it is up to member states, just as Ban said about accepting military figure Shavendra Silva as an advisor on peacekeeping.

  Meanwhile Sri Lankan state media has been running the names and photographs of human rights defenders it accuses of "betraying" it.  In New York, Sri Lanka is co-sponsoring a Commonwealth Day event on the evening of March 10....

  When the UN Human Rights Council speeches resumed on the morning of March 5, Sri Lanka's foreign minister G.L. Peiris denounced the report of outgoing High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, the pending draft and any international inquiry.

   Peiris cited two reports that he said are to be released within weeks; he cited a railroad plan announced only yesterday. This comes after nearly five years of stonewalling and intimidation.

  At the UN, where blame for inaction in 2009 and even participation in events leading to the execution of surrenderees go to the highest levels, Sri Lanka sent military figure Shavendra Silva as its Deputy Permanent Representative.

   Under Ban Ki-moon as Secretary General, Shavendra Silva became a senior adviser to UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous, the fourth Frenchman in a row to hold that post. When Inner City Press asked, Ban said this was entirely up to member states.

   After Inner City Press wrote about the United Nations Correspondents Association screening the government's "Lies Agreed To" inside the UN, when "Killing Fields" which it purported to rebut was not shown in the UN, and noted that Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona had a prior financial relationship with the president of UNCA, a demand was made to remove the article from the Internet.

  When Inner City Press refused this censorship bid, attempts began to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN, directed to the UN official set to become Ban's new spokesperson on March 10.

  One such complaint, upon the dubious request by Reuters UN bureau chief Louis Charbonneau under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, has been banned from Google's search. (The new Free UN Coalition for Access is now combating censorship at the UN and beyond.)

   Ban Ki-moon ended up giving Pillay only half of a second term; the "Rights Up Front" plan he belatedly announced, specifically as a response to what was found to be the UN's "systemic failure" on Sri Lanka, he now presents without any reference to Sri Lanka. 

  Despite denials, Sri Lankan official tell Inner City Press when they met recently with Ban, they invited him to Colombo in May.

   Before then, it appears, a vote will be held at the 25th session of the Human Rights Council.  When HRC25 began its speeches on Monday morning the 3rd of March, Hugo Swire of the UK, Canada and others cited Sri Lanka and the need for accountability.

  US Ambassador Samantha Power, according to the UN's list of speakers, was to appear late Tuesday.

   But at 4 pm on Monday when the marked up Sri Lanka resolution was tabled, its eight operative paragraph appeared to some to simply kick the can down the road again, asking for another update from the High Commissioner for Human Rights -- who soon won't be Navi Pillay anymore. Click here for draft as provided to Inner City Press.

   Later on Monday, the US State Department announced that the US' speech would be given by another official, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall: not Power.

  During the speeches on Monday, Syria and North Korea remained in nearly every speech but Ukraine and the Central African Republic worked their way in, along with a smattering of references to Sri Lanka, where the killing of tens of thousands of civilians remains unaddressed.

  It was noted that the term of High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is almost up. But it was Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who said she'd only have one half of a second term.

  Pillay on January 20 said the France put Muslim communities at risk in CAR. How will that be acted on? She's called for a international accountability mechanism for Sri Lanka; Ban says its entirely up to member states, as he told Inner City Press regarding having controversial military figure Shavendra Silva as an adviser to UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous.

  Qatar, which sent only a "Minister's Assistant," predictable denounced Syria and also spoke for freedom of the press if not of speech. #FreeAJstaff, we and the Free UN Coalition for Access absolutely agree with. But what about Qatar having locked up the poet Ajami?

  Greece spoke on Ukraine, taking the EU line, which implies that the International Monetary Fund will save Ukraine. Has they happened in Greece? What about the protesters in Greece's squares?

  Ban Ki-moon gave a press conference, pitching for relevance and a role in Ukraine, where instead of Robert Serry he has now sent his deputy Jan Eliasson. But once it was leaked that former US now UN official Jeff Feltman "got" Ban to send Serry to Ukraine, Ban's UN being viewed as impartial is more difficult.

  It was World Wildlife Day, so Ban gave a speech on that as well. But unaddressed since Inner City Press reported and asked about it on February 28 are what UN whistleblowers say are more than 50 rapes in Eastern Congo by poacher Mai Mai Morgan. Ban will meet his Special Representatives including Martin Kobler from the Congo. What will the UN's answer be?

  UK Hugo Swire took on the Sri Lanka issue; here's his response to Pillay's report. He said it's time for international action.

 US Samantha Power won't speak until March 4, in the afternoon in Geneva so work hours in the US. Sri Lanka's G.L. Peiris on the other hand appears March 5 but 3:40 am Eastern Times. Watch this site.


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