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On War Crimes, US Rapp Says Sri Lanka Panel Doesn't Meet Standards, Ban Names Next Week

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 19 -- Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa administration insists that its panel on "Lessons Learned" is a sufficient response to reports of tens of thousands of civilians killed in the final stage of the conflict last year. On June 18, Inner City Press asked Stephen Rapp, US ambassador at large for war crimes issues, if "Lessons Learned" are enough.

  "Obviously, what's been announced to date has not met the standard," Rapp said. "They're telling use it does have that capacity, to investigate these cases, to follow up and call witnesses. We're hearing it, but we're not seeing it."

  Rapp, whom Inner City Press had previously questioned as prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, said his office will be filing another report with the U.S. Congress by the end of July, on "what has been done." He said, "they will not have concluded their investigation, but we can talk about the standards."

  Surprisingly, while Rapp responded to Inner City Press that he had seen the BBC Hard Talk interview with Gotabaya Rajapaksa, he said he had "missed" the portion in which Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that if former top general Sarath Fonseka testified about war crimes, he would be "hung" as a traitor.

  "He said that?" Rapp asked. "It missed that... Witnesses need to testify freely, without consequences." Yeah. Rapp emphasized that the US is "engaged... Samantha Power was there." Yes, in the run up to the victory celebration.

  UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon, who back on March 5 said he would appoint of Group of Experts to advise him on accountability in Sri Lanka, is belatedly slated to name the Group this coming week.

Stephen Rapp in previous role, new US position on Sri Lanka not shown

 Beyond a Austrian member whose nationality but not name Inner City Press has previously reported, an intrepid publication in Sri Lanka has named as a pane member Indonesia's former attorney general Marzuki Darusman.

  While the wires may be crossed -- Darusman was on June 18 named the new Special Rapporteur on human rights in North Korea by the UN Human Rights Council -- Inner City Press has previously questioned Darusman, after the April 15, 2010 press conference on the Benazir Bhutto report. Darusman told Inner City Press he had not interviewed Mugran bin Abdul Aziz, nor former US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad. We'll see -- watch this site.

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As in Sri Lanka Rajapaksas Threaten War Crimes Witness Fonseka with Death, UN's Ban Ki-moon Has No Comment

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 7 -- The role in war crimes in Sri Lanka of the UN, its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar have been questioned by the International Crisis Group and others.

   Now Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the defense chief brother of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, has on film threatened to hang military whistleblower Sarath Fonseka if he dares testify to any independent investigation into war crimes in the country.

  But Ban Ki-moon and his Office, though aware of Gotabaya Rajapaksa's threat, had no comment on it on June 7. Inner City Press asked about Ban's three months delay since March 5, when he said he would name a group of experts to advise him on war crimes in Sri Lanka, and whether Gotabaya Rajapaksa's death threat against witnesses would convince Ban, as human rights groups have concluded based on the history, that a Sri Lankan government self-investigation is not credible.

  Ban's Associate spokesman Farhan Han, while acknowledging that UN is aware of the quote, would not comment on it, and disputed that three months in even coming up with the terms of reference of the group of experts constitutes any delay. Video here, from Minute 15:02.

UN's Ban and Sri Lanka's Kohona, war crimes inquiry not shown

  This is strange, given for example that less than a week after Israel's assault on a flotilla headed to Gaza, Ban's Office says he is already discussing the terms of reference of a panel with Israel's and Turkey's prime ministers.

Is it the UN's documented and alleged involvement in Sri Lanka's war crimes that explains Ban's greater delay and defensiveness about events in Sri Lanka? Haq finally said that "we're very close to announcing names" for the three months delayed Sri Lanka panel. But will they be impartial? Watch this site.

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While on Gaza UN's Ban Speaks of Terms of Reference, 3 Month Delay on Sri Lanka Panel, Kohona in Israel Probe

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 6 -- Six days after Israel killed nine people on a ship headed to Gaza, the UN put out a note to the Press that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was conferring with the prime ministers of Israel and Turkey "to ensure that any investigation has the full cooperation of the countries most closely concerned. He is also developing possible terms of reference and logistical arrangements for such an effort."

What is Ban Ki-moon's recent track record on developing such terms of reference? It has now been over three months since Ban announced he would name a panel of experts about possible war crimes during the final phase of the conflict in Sri Lanka last year, in which tens of thousands of civilians were killed.

And yet,on Sri Lanka Ban Ki-moon has yet to name a single member of the promised group of experts, nor to announce the terms of reference.

  When asked by Inner City Press how the allegations of the International Crisis Group about the UN's own role in pulling out of civilians areas, ineffectually seeking a ceasefire and funding internment camps would be investigated, as well as issued concerning his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar's role in convincing to surrender rebel leaders who were then killed, Ban said he rejects all such allegations.

Nambiar has said the assurances of safety were provided to him by Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa and current Ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona. (Kohona has denied the timing to Inner City Press.)

Meanwhile, the UN has named Kohona to lead a separate investigation of Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Only at the UN.

  Kohona will be out of New York on that ironic work from June 8 through 19. Given that Ban and Nambiar have given Kohona full access to the delayed process at every stage, does this mean that even after three months, Ban will wait at least another 12 days?

UN's Ban views internment camps May 09- Sri Lanka, Gaza not shown

Footnote: Inner City Press on June 4 asked the UN's top humanitarian about ICG's charges, the pull out from Kilinochchi, the funding of internment camps, as well as OCHA's having stopped reporting the numbers of civilians killed following government complaints about the leaking of these figures to Inner City Press.

  Holmes issued a rote defense -- video here -- and said an international inquiry is not required. There is a history here. Off camera, Holmes told Inner City Press he is leaving at the end of August, and that the UK's new government is not reducing aid, only wanting to measure its efficacy. But will the new government be satisfied with the OCHA post? Watch this site.

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Sri Lanka's Kohona Denies Assuring UN's Nambiar Rebels Would Not Be Executed, Qorvis told Peiris to Leave NPC

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 28 -- Before surrendering Tamil Tiger leaders were shot to death last year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar says he was assured they would be treated like normal prisoners of war by Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and Palitha Kohona, currently Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN.

  On May 28, Mr. Kohona told Inner City Press that he never provided such assurance. Since this differs from what Vijay Nambiar told Al Jazeera -- see Al Jazeera transcript below -- Inner City Press inquired further.

   Kohona said that he spoke to Nambiar "the day after" -- presumably, the day after Nambiar conveyed the two Rajapaksas' assurances to the LTTE leaders, leading to their surrender and death.

  "I ask you to report my denial," Kohona told Inner City Press. "And say that the other two, you did not have the opportunity to ask."

 As Inner City Press pointed out to him, the questions might well have been put to the Rajapaksas' Minister of External Affairs G.L. Peiris, but Kohona denied or ignored Inner City Press' request to interview Peiris.

   While down in Washington DC, Peiris had been scheduled to take questions at the National Press Club but walked out before answering a single question. A witness says that just prior to the event, Peiris was audibly told by his and the Rajapaksas' public relations advisors at Qorvis that Peiris might face some "unfair" questions." So Peiris immediately left.

 But Peiris should answer detailed questions, if he is the country's Minister of Foreign Affairs. That is why Inner City Press, hearing of the Sri Lankan Mission's invitation to journalists who have never written about the conflict to wine and dine with Peiris, asked instead to interview him.

  "Maybe if you changed your attitude," Kohona said. "Now that you want me out... maybe I'm going to have to change my approach."

  Already, Kohona's deputy is repetitively sending to Inner City Press letters meant to discourage questioning, right before the UN noon briefings. On May 28, Inner City Press asked a number of Ban Ki-moon / Sri Lanka / panel and Nambiar related questions, and received at least some answers on the former, but no answers to the Nambiar questions. Watch this site.

Al Jazeera transcript:

Q: ...role you played in negotiations for the surrender of many of the Tamil leaders at the time. What was agreed?

Mr. Nambiar: As you know both in April and May of last year the UN had made strenuous efforts in order to try and see that the civilian population would be safeguarded from some of the difficulties, the tragedies of the conflict that was taking place. Now, when I went in May during my second visit, the extent to which I was involved in this was a telephone conversation, a telephone message I got from a Sunday Times correspondent through the UK Foreign Office and through the UN headquarters where I was asked to check with the Sri Lankan authorities regarding the possible protection could be given to two of the Tamil leaders... When I received this call, I said that I will make an effort and contact the government authorities, which I did, the same day that is I think it's the 17 and 18 of May. I went and I spoke to the foreign secretary at that time, Mr. Palitha Kohona, the defense secretary, and subsequently I spoke to the president also. So, I raise this question …the Sunday Times correspondent talked about their wanting to surrender…they may want to do it to a third party…afraid for their lives…so I raised this with them and suggested …the response from them was that they would be treated likes normal prisoners of war, if they raised the white flag they would be allowed to surrender. Now that is the extent to which I was involved.

Q: This is what President of Sri Lanka told you..

Nambiar: Yes…the president also in response to my statement, he said the same thing, as did the foreign secretary and the Defense Secretary.

Q: They specifically said they would treat them…

Nambiar They just made…they just responded in the manner, they would be treated like ordinary prisoners of war.

To be continued - watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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