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UN: Sri Lanka


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On Sri Lanka Eliasson Cites UN Failures, Report Not Yet to Ban, Nor Public

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 3, updated with (censored) transcript -- Now more than four years after the UN's “systemic failure” during the killing of 40,000 civilians in Sri Lanka in May 2009, Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson has before him a report about the UN's failures and what can be done.

Inner City Press asked Eliasson about the process on May 9, 2013; he said the report would be finished and in front of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by “mid-June.”

  Once mid-June came and went, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesperson about the report, but got nowhere. So on July 3 when Eliasson re-appeared to brief about his trip to Afghanistan, Inner City Press asked again.

  Eliasson said the report was given to him on June 17, but not yet to Ban Ki-moon. He said it is up to him and his colleagues in the Executive Office of the Secretary General to go through the report and draw conclusions, about “human rights early warning signals” and how to be ready to act quickly, as did not happen in 2009.

  Then, as Inner City Press reported daily in detail, the UN pulled out of Kilinochchi in northern Sri Lanka, did little when the government locked up local UN staff, and did not even call for a ceasefire in the run up to the bloodbath on the beach. There was murdering -- and apparently misleading -- of surrenderees.

  Since then there has been little to no accountability, and the Secretariat did nothing when Sri Lanka maneuvered to make military figure Shavendra Silva, depicted in the UN's own report as engaged in war crimes, a member of the UN Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations.

  It is still a troubling tale, and one wonders if Eliasson can move to at least turn it around somewhat. Inner City Press asked -- over the spokesperson's objection -- whether the report will be public. Eliasson said that will be up to Ban Ki-moon, but pledged “maximum transparency.” Watch this site.

Footnote: while Ban's deputy spokesman tried to disallow a single follow up on Sri Lanka and if the report will be public, he allowed two UNCA executive committee members follow ups, and gave one of them a second round of questions.

  UNCA is the group which screened, inside the UN's Dag Hammaskjold Library Auditorium, the Sri Lankan government's film denying war crimes, then tried to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN for writing about it.

  Following that, Inner City Press co-founded the new Free UN Coalition for Access to defend journalists from these type of insider attacks. The result has been... more attacks, including most recently threats from the UN to suspend or withdraw Inner City Press' accreditation for merely hanging a sign of the Free UN Coalition for Access on the door of its office, while UNCA is allowed two big signs and more.

This is being fought back, taking the battle beyond the space and other issues on which the UN openly favors UNCA to the online world, through @FUNCA_info. Watch that feed, and this site.

From UN transcription which in typical Censorship fashion omits the name of FUNCA:

Q: I want to thank you for doing this briefing so soon after you got back, and also I hope that we will have some questions on more general UN items, after, it should be... There is DRC, Haiti and other things going on.

DSG: Sure, sure.

Q: I have tried to figure this out in your absence: you had said the last time that you gave us a briefing that in your function on Sri Lanka, that you had begun an internal review and that it would be finished by mid-June, so I had asked here and didn’t really get anywhere, so where does it stand on that? Thank you.

DSG: On the follow up of the Sri Lanka report, I was given the responsibility to set up a working group, and they delivered their report to me on 17 June. It is now up to me and my colleagues in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General to go through these recommendations and draw the appropriate conclusions from that report. It was a serious report, that there were systemic failures of the UN system, and others also, not least Member States and the Security Council. But we took it upon ourselves to analyse these systemic failures, and the working group came up with some very important conclusions. It is premature for me to, at this stage, tell you about the contents. I will report to the Secretary-General as soon as we have analysed all these recommendations of the Working Group, but I can go so far as to say that we need to be better prepared for action when we see, at an early stage, human rights violations.

It is up to the Secretary-General to decide, but we will work with maximum transparency, of course. But the preparedness to see human rights early warning signals is crucial, but also the different measures we can take to better protect civilians, and then, above all, the need to have the possibility to react quickly in situations. But we will come back later on this issue. I would hope that we will be able to finish this work in the near future.

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