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Eliasson on UN's "Failure" in Sri Lanka, Says Report Withheld Until Implemented

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 9 -- On its action in the face of mass killing, the UN says it wants to have the courage to "speak out about what we see" - but then won't yet release a report on just this about Sri Lanka.

  Since the UN's report on its inaction while 40,000 civilians were killed in Sri Lanka in 2009 was completed, Inner City Press and now the Free UN Coalition for Access have asked that it be released. Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, who worked on the report, said it would be up to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in September.

  The report was not released in that month, only alluded to in Ban's General Assembly speech. On October 9 at the Council on Foreign Relations, as Inner City Press reported in advance, Eliasson spoke more about it. Video here and below.

As prepared, with "as delivered" added in italics in brackets:

"With respect to Sri Lanka, an internal review of UN action at the end of the civil war in 2009 noted a 'systemic' failure of different parts of the UN. Member States did no meet the tasks they themselves had set. The UN system did not adapt properly when the final brutal stage of the conflict put great pressure for a broader UN presence, which had been focused on development.

"A main lesson we are to draw from this is to ensure that the UN system has political and human rights expertise and resources in place where they are needed. Equally important is to recognize [and this is very important to me] that human rights violations are our best early warning signals in emerging crises-- and, of course, that we must [have the courage to] act on such signals and speak out about what we see. On behalf of the Secretary General, I have led this internal scrutiny. There is important work for the Member States as well."

  An obvious question came to mind, and was tweeted even before Eliasson finished: will the report be released?

  Eliasson said, not yet. He said that when he turned it over to Ban Ki-moon, he suggested that it not be released until the UN had implemented it, or part of it. How much is UNclear.

  Eliasson also said he couldn't say anything about responsibility for cholera in Haiti, we have strict lines on that. As Deputy Secretary General, his "lines" could only come from one place: the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. So is it the case, that the withholding of the report is due to Eliasson, that Ban wants to release it? It should be released -- to withhold it is (another) cover up.

  For example, the spin now is that the UN in Sri Lanka in 2008 and 2009 was all development, and so didn't see human rights violations. But then OCHA chief John Holmes WAS there -- and OCHA pulled out. The UN's failure is not too much development -- it is high officials, tied to powerful member states, not acting on what they preached. Worse that Holmes, now, is Herve Ladsous. Click here for compilation video.

Footnote: In fairness, Eliasson said more, citing Charles Petrie and Michael Keating, and about human rights as an early warning sign. Inner City Press chides itself still, not having followed up enough after it asked a question in 2008 about the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs pulling out of Kilinochchi.

  It pursued -- see yesterday's UK New Statesman, here -- but, later than should have been. But it says so, here. Why would the UN withhold this report? For how long? Watch this site.


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