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UN: Sri Lanka


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New Report As UN Silent on Sri Lanka Banning Commemoration of Tamils It Killed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 17 -- In the run up to the fifth anniversary in Sri Lanka of what even the UN called the "Bloodbath on the Beach," Inner City Press on May 12 asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the Mahinda Rajapaksa government banning commemorations of those deaths in the North:

Inner City Press: I want to ask you on Sri Lanka, this coming Sunday is viewed as the fifth anniversary as the end of the conflict and the Government is going to celebrate its victory, but they’ve basically outlawed any memorial of those killed in the Northern Province. And since this is seen as kind of a reconciliation issue and I know that, in fact, the Human Rights Council has called for an inquiry of the killing of those people in the Northern Province. Does the UN have any comment on the banning of commemoration of several tens of thousands of people killed?

Spokesman: I haven’t seen the reports of that banning; we’ll look into it. If I have something to add, I will.

   But six days later, on the anniversary, there has been no answer -- despite a report being easily available here, for example -- just as there has been no answer by Ban's spokesperson's office to Inner City Press' May 8 question about any UN follow-through on rapes by Sri Lanka's army about which the UN's Zainab Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, publicly expressed concern on April 24, and which where were the subject of a session at Canada's Mission to the UN on May 6, longer story here.

  There is, however, a new report on the White Flag killings of Tamil Tiger surrenders, which six times mentions the UN's Vijay Nambiar, and deal with Sri Lanka's now Permanent Representative to the UN Palitha Kohona, and his ostensible Deputy Shavendra Silva, including in photographs pointing then looking at rows of dead bodies. 

 Inner City Press was previously sent the photographs and upload them here (pointing) and here (looking) - warning: graphic. But this and these are today's UN.

   The new report says, as to Nambiar, "Tamil MP Rohan Chandra Nehru tried for two days to contact the UN Secretary General’s special envoy, Vijay Nambiar. He says Mr Nambiar never called him back."

 Then now-deceased "Sunday Times Journalist, Marie Colvin, did eventually speak to Mr Nambiar who told her that there wasn’t much interest on the part of the Sri Lankan government in a surrender because, 'They seem to want to go all the way.'"

   More specifically, at 5:30 am on May 18, 2009, "Marie Colvin wakes up Vijay Nambiar. He tells Colvin that he’s received assurances from the Sri Lankan President that the surrendering Tigers will be safe and there’s therefore no need for him to go to oversee the surrender. She questions him on the wisdom of this decision."

  Inner City Press pursued these questions, and others about Kohona and his financial relationship related to a screening in the UN of a government film denying war crimes -- and soon found itself faced with expulsion by the UN Correspondents Association become the UN's Censorship Alliance, click here for that.

   Jump cut to May 6, 2014: multiple sources told Inner City Press that at the meeting, controversial Sri Lankan military figure, now Deputy Permanent Representative Shavendra Silva sought to deny the reports of rape by the Army.  He said for example that "certain organizations are propagating false allegations, they are repeated by different organizations and form an opinion."

   Soldiers under Silva's command were depicted engaged in war crimes in the UN's own Sri Lanka report; here is a story of Silva spinning at the UN, and some aftermath.

  At the May 6 session, Inner City Press is informed, Canadian Permanent Representative Guillermo Rishchynski spoke of a risk of further violence in Sri Lanka as none of underlying causes of conflict have been dealt with. He particularly regretted the harassment of civil society in wake of Navi Pillay's visit. (The Canadian Mission's spokesperson declined to comment when asked before the meeting by Inner City Press, saying the meeting was closed.  More has since been published here.)

  Also in attendance were representatives of Norway, the United States and United Kingdom, Nigeria, Japan, Pakistan, Montenegro and South Africa. The last of these said they would refer the concerns back to their capital to determine next steps. An attendee noted that the French Mission to the UN, which talks much about sexual violence in conflict, was not in attendance.

  It is a doubly-timely topic at the UN, the day after the 130 rapes at Minova by two Congolese army  units which still receive support from the UN's MONUSCO mission resulted in a mere two convictions and three dozen exhonerations. Inner City Press questions on how this relates to the UN stated Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, like its questions about the rapes for month to UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, were met May 6 by UN stonewalling, video here.

 The rapists in Sri Lanka have not even been prosecuted, or are being facilely cleared, as were the Sri Lankan "peacekeepers" repatriated from Haiti.

  On May 8, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: when Zainab Bangura was here speaking about sexual violence and conflict in April, and she said that she was going to meet with this Yasmin Sooka who had done a report for the Secretary-General about Sri Lanka and a more recent report on rapes there. I guess I wanted to ask because this week, she, Ms. Sooka presented at the Canadian Mission her report and the [Deputy Permanent Representative] of Sri Lanka, Shavendra Silva, basically denied the whole thing, said there’s not a problem at all. So, I wanted to know, since she’s been here and said she’s speaking with the Mission and they want to have a focal point, who did Ms. Sooka meet with while she was here in New York? And what steps to follow-up on what Ms. Bangura said are being taken to pursue this, these documented cases of post-conflict rape in Sri Lanka?

Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq: Well, I don’t know here entire schedule but you’re right. Ms. Bangura herself said that she did intend to meet with her and I believe that happened. If there’s any details of that meeting to share, I’ll let you know.

   And in the four days since, nothing.

    Back on April 24 Inner City Press asked Bangura about the rapes in Sri Lanka and what if anything the UN is doing about it. UN video here from Minute 15:15, Inner City Press video here and embedded below.

   Bangura replied that she is "concerned, worried" and has spoken with Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative, Palitha Kohona, about it, urging him that Sri Lanka designate a "focal person" on the issue. It is not Kohona slated to attend on May 5, but his deputy Shavendra Silva.

  Inner City Press asked about the report authored by Yasmin Sooka, who previously served on one of the UN's panels looking at war crimes in Sri Lanka and who will give a briefing at the May 5 meeting, along with Kirsty Brimmelow. Here is a link to the report.

  Earlier in April, Inner City Press asked yet another former UN panelist on Sri Lanka, Marzuki Darusman, if he thought the UN's response to his report had been successful. Darusman cited the example of Cambodia, for the proposition that justice can take a long time. But how long?

  The UN can't even keep track of its own statements. On alleged rapes by UN peacekeepers in Mali, the UN told Inner City Press in January that the investigation was finished. Then on April 23, the UN's Mali envoy Bert Koenders said it won't be finished for two or three weeks, but predicted or pretold that the UN peacekeepers will be cleared.

  Bangura, when Inner City Press asked, didn't know which was true, or any update on the rape charges against UN peacekeepers themselves.

  Combined with the UN's refusal to be accountable for, or even acknowledge service of legal papers on Ban Ki-moon about, bringing cholera to Haiti, how can the UN effectively push for accountability by anyone else? We'll see. Watch this site.


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