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UN: Sri Lanka


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Did UN Feltman Says Sri Lanka Will Probe "Under UN Supervision"?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 28 -- Nine days after the UN Human Rights Council under Joachim Rucker granted HCHR Zeid's request to withhold the already delayed report on war crimes in Sri Lanka, the UN on February 26 added Jaffna as a stop to the Sri Lanka visit by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's highest political official Jeffrey Feltman.

  That came two days after Inner City Press asked if Feltman would go to Jaffna, site of protests of the delay, and was told "Colombo only."

 On Friday, February 27, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:

Inner City Press: on this trip by Mr. Feltman to Sri Lanka, I wanted to know:  can you confirm he's meeting with the Tamil National Alliance… that's tomorrow?  And will there be any readouts?

Spokesman Dujarric:  We talked to our colleagues in DPA [Department of Political Affairs] to make sure we can get some readouts e-mailed over the weekend as they happen.

   But more than 24 hours later, after Feltman's meeting with the TNA, there was no read-out.

  Meanwhile it was reported under the headline "UN clarifies the delay" that "the UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, told the TNA that the release of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Inquiry on Sri Lanka (OISL) report on alleged war crimes in the Island was postponed to September this year following the assurance given by the new Government, that it would conduct an internal investigation under UN supervision."

  So since UN DPA is tweeting about Feltman's trip, Inner City Press asked in this same medium, "Press Q: So, did government promise an 'investigation under UN supervision'?"

  So far, no answer. The UN is UNresponsive - click here for that, including with regard to the UN's Censorship Alliance - but we'll stay on it.

  Rucker, speaking in Geneva, has claimed that this delay was "very rational" in a "relatively unique" case. Are all forms of impunity and justice delayed "relatively unique"?

  On February 24, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said:

"Mr. Feltman will then travel to Sri Lanka on Saturday.  There, he plans to meet with senior officials of the Government of Sri Lanka, political parties and civil society groups. This will be his first visit to Sri Lanka, and he looks forward to discussing with Sri Lankan leaders various issues of mutual concern."

  Inner City Press immediately asked Ban Ki-moon's Spokesman Stephane Dujarric if Feltman will at least visit Jaffna in the north, site of protests of UN High Commissioner Prince Zeid's recommendation of the day:

Inner City Press: I want to ask in advance whether he’s going to go only to Colombo or Jaffna where there were pretty big protests over the weekend against the decision to defer that human rights report.  I’m wondering what’s the relationship between his trip and that… the process supposedly in six months to…

Spokesman Dujarric:  My understanding is that he will only go to Colombo to meet with various people.  We’ll get you, as the meetings happen, we’ll try to get you readouts.

 Now, Jaffna has been added. But what will the read-outs be? We'll have more on this

  Back on February 13 after Sri Lanka's new government spoke of doing another local investigation into war crimes in 2009, and asking for a suspension of the UN Human Rights Council process, Inner City Press went to Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera's meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

  No other media at the UN attended; only the UN's own in-house UN Photo and UN TV. But accompanying Mangala Samaraweera were outgoing Ambassador Palitha Kohona and others. Video here.

  Ban Ki-moon, before Inner City Press was whisked out of the meeting, told Mangala Samaraweera he had met him after the tsunami - that is, when Ban was a South Korean diplomat.

  On February 17, after High Commissioner Prince Zeid recomended and got for Sri Lanka a six month deferral of action, Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, asked of Shavendra Silva by IPS, said

"the Secretary-General is aware that the new administration is planning to set up a domestic accountability mechanism and will be carefully assessing developments.  The Secretary-General, as you're aware, met with the Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka last Friday, 13 February, and stressed the importance of Sri Lanka to show firm and clear commitment to accountability, reconciliation and human rights.  He also encouraged the Government to engage continuously with the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Advancing accountability, like other parts of the post-war agenda in Sri Lanka, will lay the basis for the country to make further progress on peace, democracy and development.  The UN remains committed to support Sri Lanka’s efforts to address the postwar agenda.  The Secretary-General is also aware of reactions from various communities to the decision by the Human Rights Council, and the Secretary-General will positively engage with the new Government and support its efforts."

  This is shameful all around, in light of talk of accountability.

  Last week, the UN's Oscar Fernandez Taranco met the US State Department's Nisha Biswal. Inner City Press asked if it was about Bangladesh, and was told, "in part." Taranco was at Ban's meeting with Samaraweera, here. So was Sri Lanka and the deferral request the other part? Watch this site.

Back on February 12 Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman for the UN's position. Video here.

  First, Inner City Press asked whether Sri Lanka's Palitha Kohona is leaving the UN:

Inner City Press: yesterday, he met with Ambassador Kohona of Sri Lanka.  I couldn't tell if that was a farewell call or not.

Spokesman Dujarric:  It was indeed a farewell call.

Inner City Press:  And did the issue of not pursuing the Human Rights Council investigation into Sri Lanka arise?

Spokesman Dujarric:  It was, indeed, a farewell call.  I mean, the Secretary-General's position on the, on the human rights investigation is unchanged.  He's obviously aware that the new administration is considering setting domestic accountability mechanisms and will be carefully assessing these developments.  The Secretary-General has stressed the importance of Sri Lanka establishing credible mechanisms that meet international standards.  Advancing accountability, like other parts of the post-war agenda in Sri Lanka, will lay the basis for the country to make further progress on peace, democracy and development.  The UN stands ready, as always, to support Sri Lanka's efforts to address the post-war agenda as we have consistently affirmed.

  It's a question that when raised, here, to the US State Department went so far unanswered. New foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera is set to meet with Ban on February 13. Watch this site.

  Back on January 12 the UN said that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made this call:

"The Secretary-General congratulated President Sirisena’s election and the successful conclusion of the presidential election. The Secretary-General and President Sirisena discussed the President’s 100-day plan and Sri Lanka’s post-war agenda. The Secretary-General affirmed continuous support by the UN to Sri Lanka."

  That is, the UN's read-out of Ban's call had no mention of accountability or of the UN Human Rights Council inquiry into the bloodbath on the beach in 2009. We'll have more on this.

 After Mahinda Rajapaksa conceded defeat but before 10:30 pm on January 8 in Washington, US Secretary of State issued a statement, below.

  Inner City Press published it, and asked the UN for its comment. Told to expect one in the AM, New York time, Inner City Press noted, the earlier the better. Twelve hours later, there was nothing.

  So Inner City Press asked again at the noon briefing on January 9, after new President Sirisena's inauguration. UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said the UN welcomes the transfer of power, then later in the briefing read out this statement:

"The Secretary-General congratulates the people of Sri Lanka on the successful conclusion of the presidential election, and welcomes the constitutional transfer of power.

"The Secretary-General applauds the Sri Lankan Elections Commission for its professionalism in ensuring a peaceful and credible election. He also commends the efforts of the candidates, including in particular outgoing President Mahinda Rajapaksa, law enforcement agencies and civil society for upholding and respecting democratic governance.

"The Secretary-General looks forward to working with President Maithripala Sirisena and the people of Sri Lanka. He affirms the continuous support of the United Nations for development, reconciliation, political dialogue and accountability in Sri Lanka."

  Inner City Press immediately asked Haq if what this reference to accountability portends for the UN inquiry into the events in 2009. We'll have more on this.

  Amnesty International has said that "Sri Lanka has for years resisted all international efforts to investigate the conflict years, and instead relied on domestic investigation bodies that toed the government line. This has to end – the new government should cooperate fully with the UN investigation.”

   Watch this site.

  In other possible routes to accountability, talk of seeking justice in US courts as to several joint American citizens in Team Rajapaksa - or on the team during the 2009 "Bloodbath on the Beach" -- has picked up. Some team members have reportedly already left the country: we'll have more on this.



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