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UN: Sri Lanka


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After Sri Lanka Bans UN Probe, UN Tells ICP Ban Ki-moon Urges Engagement: But Will Call Rajapaksa?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 13 -- This week, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha announced that the Rajapaksa government will NOT be cooperating in any way with the human rights investigation approved by the UN Human Rights Council and being staffed by outgoing High Commissioner Navi Pillay, reportedly with Dame Silvia Cartwright of New Zealand as well as Sandra Beidas.

  Inner City Press on June 13 asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq what Ban and the UN think of Sri Lanka's position, and if anyone from the UN will be speaking to the Rajapaksa government about it.

   Haq provided this answer to Inner City Press: "The Secretary General supports the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and commends the leadership she has demonstrated to assist Sri Lanka in advancing accountability and reconciliation. He fully understands the challenges and complexity related to post-war processes, and therefore encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to engage constructively with the international community, to strengthen the existing domestic processes in a manner that is inclusive and respectful of human rights and to work towards lasting peace in Sri Lanka."

  But is anyone from Ban's Secretariat going to speak with the Rajapaksa government?

Background: Sri Lanka has taken this position of refusal after trying to avoid the investigation altogether. Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona arranged for example for the old UN Correspondents Association to screen the government's film denying war crimes, “Lies Agreed To,” in the UN's Dag Hammarskjold Library auditorium.

  After Inner City Press covered the screening, and the previous financial relationship between Kohona and UNCA's president, summarized here, the executive committee of UNCA tried to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN. (Inner City Press quit and co-founded the Free UN Coalition for Access to defend journalists, in the UN and further afield like Somaliland, Ukraine and Burundi.)

  On the other hand Morocco, while flashing a threat in April -- that it would throw the UN Mission MINURSO out if human rights monitoring was added -- takes a more velvet glove approach. At the end of April, new Ambassador Omar Hilale reached out, for example to Inner City Press, promising a new approach. We covered, and will cover, this with an open mind.

And lo and behold earlier this week he appeared again with open hand, through a social secretary, then after that didn't bear fruit with an invitation sent to four correspondents to a session at the end of June entitled “Regional Commissions of National Human Rights Councils in Autonomous Regions:Good Practices And Challenges.”

  It will feature, among others, Driss El Yazami of the National Human Rights Council of Morocco, "compare practices followed in some states with regard to the relationship between National Human Rights Councils (or Commissions) and  Regional Commissions acting in their autonomous or decentralized territories." We'll have more on this.

  The idea, clearly, is to argue that no human rights monitoring in MINURSO in Western Sahara is needed. Inner City Press didn't RSVP - it didn't say it was required - and now old UNCA, Sri Lanka's government's partner and the UN's Censorship Alliance, has promoted Morocco's event.

  At the same time, French Ambassador Gerard Araud who was quoted by Spanish actor Javier Bardem calling Morocco France's mistress is belatedly leaving the UN, as Inner City Press reported the confirmation of on the morning of June 11 after first reporting it two month ago.

Old UNCA dragged its feet after Araud on April 15 told one of its dues paying members, “You are not a journalist, you are an agent.” The Free UN Coalition for Access asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric to convey to Araud and the French Mission the stated position that correspondents should be treated with respect, which Dujarric refused to do.

 Strange in a way that this was a cause, unlike Sri Lanka war crimes denial, that UNCA's board would not take up, since it could be turned on them. But UNCA is in decline: president Pamela Falk, for example, promoted an event in the same Dag Hammarskjold Library auditorium which was then declared "closed" and only for "a small group." UN-free Press? We'll have more on this.


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