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UN: Sri Lanka


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On Sri Lanka, Protest at UN, Stonewalling from Ban & Censorship Alliance

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 25 -- After UN official Oscar Fernandez Taranco visited Sri Lanka but has refused to take Press questions upon his return to New York, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on June 25 about a protest, video here:

Inner City Press: There’s a protest scheduled for today at 1 p.m. on 47th Street of mostly people from Sri Lanka and elsewhere about the violence there. And they’ve said that they intend to hand a letter to the Secretariat, seeking action against the action there. I wanted to know: is this going to be possible? Is Mr. [Oscar Fernandez-] Taranco... it’s great that Mr. Šimonovic will brief on Burundi. It seems like it’s a kind of a similar situation. And is the UN aware of this? And what has been the reaction to the upswing in violence in Sri Lanka?

Spokesman Dujarric: I think we’ve spoken about this from this podium. We’ve condemned the violence that we’ve seen recently. And obviously, the Secretary-General fully backs the efforts of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. As for the demonstration, I was unaware of it. If I have any information, I will let you know.

Inner City Press: That panel is about war crimes at the end of the conflict on both sides, whereas this is something that’s actually taking place currently. That’s why I’m sort of asking, like, did Mr. Taranco deal with this issue while he was there?

Spokesman Dujarric: As I said, I shared with you what I had on Mr. Taranco’s visit.

   The protest took place: see Inner City Press tweeted photo here.

  In a previous protest by Sri Lankan Tamils, the UN sent a lower level functionary who told the protesters the letter would be rejected if they told the Press about it. Dujarric said he would check. This comes amid much hypocrisy at the UN. 

   With Navi Pillay slated to leave as UN High Commissioner on Human Rights on August 31, on June 25 she made an announcement about the HRC Panel on Sri Lanka.

  Meanwhile amid renewed Buddhist extremist violence in the country and restrictions on media, on June 24 and June 25 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Ban's envoy Oscar Fernandez Taranco's visit.

   Dujarric said Taranco discussed "post war achievements." Inner City Press asked, did he discuss press freedom issues? Apparently not.

    This comes as many big-wigs in the UN use the outrageous detention of three Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt to promote... themselves. What did they say about the killing of five journalists in Eastern Ukraine? What have they said about Sri Lanka? Some in the UN even tried to censor Sri Lanka coverage, here.

    Here's from Pillay announcement:

"Three distinguished experts have agreed to advise and support the team set up to conduct a comprehensive investigation of alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka, as mandated by the Human Rights Council in March:

Mr Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who has also served as a UN diplomat and mediator and is renowned for his international peace work;

Ms Silvia Cartwright, former Governor-General and High Court judge of New Zealand, and judge of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts in Cambodia, as well as former member of the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women;

Ms Asma Jahangir, former President of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association and of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, previous holder of several Human Rights Council mandates and member of a recent fact-finding body into Israeli settlements."

  But the Rajapaksa government has already indicated it will not cooperate. In fact, it has made threats to go after anyone who does cooperate.

   Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, for whom many say inaction on Sri Lanka has been a low point of his tenure, nominated Jordan's Prince Zeid as Pillay's successor, to begin on September 1.

  As Inner City Press reported, Zeid to his credit was troubled by the inclusion of controversial military figure Shavendra Silva on Ban's and Herve Ladsous' Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations.

  Silva remains a figure within the UN, texting in Sri Lanka's seat in the General Assembly.

 The UN has entirely stonewalled Press questions about the new White Flag killings report and the light it sheds on current UN official Vijay Nambiar and former UN official, now Sri Lankan Ambassador Palitha Kohona.

  It was about a past financial relationship between Kohona and the president of the UN Correspondents Association, who then agreed to an UNCA screening of a Rajapaksa government movie denying war crimes that UNCA tried to censor.

When Inner City Press reported on the background to Kohona getting the Rajapaksa government's denial of war crimes, “Lies Agreed To,” screened in the Dag Hammarjkold Library auditorium, the reaction from the then-president and executive committee of the United Nations Correspondents Association are summarized here. One wag wondered whether the 2009 Bloodbath on the Beach has now been echoed as Blowhards on the Beach, here.

   In Sri Lanka now the Rajapaksa government blocks websites it doesn't like. The UNCA board asked that Inner City Press articles be removed from the internet. This was refused. One UNCA board member claimed to Google that his “for the record” complaint to the UN trying to get Inner City Press thrown out was in fact private and “copyrighted.”  Here is a response from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

   This got it banned from Google's Search, under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which threatens to be globalized through the Trans Pacific Partnership. Who said there is not censorship in the UN, and in the United States?

  Now the new Free UN Coalition for Access opposes all of this, and attacks on media work both inside the UN both further afield and as close at 47th Street, west of First Avenue. Watch this site.


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