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On Sri Lanka, UN Panel Met Egeland, De Mistura, Schulenburg, Finish in June

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 9 -- Four years ago in May 2009 the Sri Lankan Army was advancing north toward a "bloodbath on the beach" in which tens of thousands of civilians were killed.

  The UN has been criticized for its inaction (and some of its actions) in Sri Lanka, and is now again studying itself to come up with recommendations. A panel under Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson was announced, in response to an Inner City Press question, on December 5, 2012. What has it accomplished?

  On May 9, 2013 Inner City Press asked Eliasson where things stand. Video here, embedded and UN transcript below. d

  He answered that earlier in the day he had an hour and a half meeting about the Sri Lanka review, by video, with such "outside experts" as Staffan De Mistura, Jan Egeland and Michael von Schulenburg, who was thrown out of Sierra Leone.

  (The 2009 successor to Egeland and Eliasson as Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, has been interfacing with UN-linked NGOs, but apparently not on this report on Sri Lanka. When Inner City Press quoted him about deleting at least some e-mails from Tamils, his staff complained with UN Media Accreditation. And see second footnote below.)

  The goal, Eliasson said, is to come up with recommendations to not have this happen again (he cited Myanmar and Syria). He will get the report, from two of his staff members and Michael Keating, and assess it and give it to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, all by mid-June.

Will the report be public? That is a question that will be asked. Watch this site.

Footnotes: 1) Following up, Inner City Press asked the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay if there has been any progress on her visiting Sri Lanka. The answer was, Discussions continuing with Sri Lanka on possible dates.."

  2) When the Sri Lankan government screened its war crimes defense film inside the UN and Inner City Press wrote about it and some background, a fight began that continues to this day. Most recently, a pro government Sri Lankan told Inner City Press they will "complain to UNCA." And what? (Though even the threat is quite telling.) Due to attempts at censorship, for example demands that articles be taken down, Inner City Press co-founded the Free UN Coalition for Access. So, send away. We may have more on this.

UN's transcription:

Inner City Press: ... You are the head of this review panel on the Charles Petrie report on Sri Lanka, and I wanted to know, I think that was announced back in December, what have you found, where does it stand, what improvements or reforms have been made?

DSG Jan Eliasson: Thank you very much.... On Charles Petrie’s report on Sri Lanka, it was taken very seriously by the Secretary-General and made public also. I was asked by him, the Secretary-General, to head a group to look, go through the recommendations of the report, and above all look forward to the future so that we avoid coming in such situations as we did in Sri Lanka, and as we have in several other tragic situations. This group was established in January, and they have worked very diligently. It is co-chaired by Andrew Gilmour of the Political Unit, and Paul Akiwumi, my Chief of Staff. And we have a very good secretariat headed by Michael Keating who is a very respected colleague, who was the Deputy SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] in Afghanistan. What I found most important was to bring was to bring in all the agencies, departments, programmes, funds, who indirectly or directly are involved in the situation or the role of the United Nations in Sri Lanka. So we have had a working group with representatives of all groups working very intensely on taking these recommendations seriously. We also have invited experts from the outside for hearings. Today, I had a hearing with a group of very respectable colleagues of mine and many others – Jan Egeland, Staffan De Mistura, Michael Van Den Schulenberg – I can’t give you the whole list – but we had a video conference of one and a half hours today, where we got their reactions to the report. So, it is a big process right now. And I suppose I will, within a month or so, receive the report and then it is up to me to assess these recommendations and go to the Secretary-General and discuss what measures should be taken. I hope this whole process will be finished by the middle of June at the latest, I would hope. We take it very seriously.

We have of course situations today where all these questions come up. I mentioned Myanmar, but above all, I think about Syria. We need to really prepare ourselves as good as possible for this type of situation in the future.

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