Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the Inner City to Wall Street to the United Nations

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

  Search Search WWW (censored?)

In Other Media-eg Nigeria, Zim, Georgia, Nepal, Somalia, Azerbaijan, Gambia Click here to contact us     .


Home -

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


Follow us on TWITTER

Subscribe to RSS feed

Video (new)

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07

Support this work by buying this book

Click os to Khmer courtn cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

At UN, Sri Lanka Panel's 4 Months Has Not Begun, Ban Gives In to Protest?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 3 -- After Sri Lanka's May 2009 “bloodbath on the beach” which killed thousands of civilians, it took UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon more than a year to name a three person Panel of Experts to merely offer advice on accountability.

  On August 2, two months after the assault on the Gaza flotilla which killed eight civilians on the ship, Ban launches a four person Panel of Inquiry, stating that its work formally started August 10, with a first report in mid September, before the UN's annual General Debate.

Inner City Press on August 2 asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky about the contrast between the two panels, the speed with which Ban formed them, and the strangely narrow scope of his Sri Lanka panel:

Inner City Press: I didn’t know we were going to get into comparative panels. But following up on the Bhutto discussion, some have wondered about comparing panels, comparing this to the Sir Lanka panel, which is three people instead of four.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Why did I think you were going to go there?

Inner City Press: Yeah, yeah. The question is, I guess, it hasn’t started yet, due to staffing, I’m told. And so I wonder how can you explain the difference of the speed — I mean, the speed should be, in all cases, I would assume — what would you say that to those who say it took a year to name one in Sri Lanka and it still hasn’t begun due to some staffing issues, whereas this one you’ve said when it’ll start, when it’ll report…

Spokesperson: You’re saying there are staffing issues; I have not. And, that’s the first… [talkover]. The first thing is, as you know, they [the Sri Lanka panel] have already met, and they are looking at exactly how they will work. They have a Chief of Staff, we’ve already named him, as you know. That person is already working with the three experts. So, that’s the first thing. The second thing is, in all of these cases, where you’re setting up an inquiry, a panel of experts, or whatever else you want to call it, this involves careful groundwork and diplomacy. And, this can take, in some cases, a long time; in some cases, it can take less time. You can’t compare one to another. This is how diplomacy works.

So if a country complains loudly enough, leading up to blocking UN staff inside their building, then Ban Ki-moon's UN will move slowly and cautiously on war crimes, apparently. What is the message to countries like Sudan and Myanmar?

Colombo, June 7, 2010: blocking UN staff leads to delay, start of 4 mo clock not shown

  Sudan appears to have already learned the lesson: they have announced that UN staff in Darfur must now give prior notice before traveling the road, and will have their bags searched in the airport.

As to the still unclear Sri Lanka panel timing, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: has the four-month clock started? When did it start?

Spokesperson: As we’ve said, you have the experts and you have the support team. The support team is working in the background. The experts will be meeting again in the coming weeks, and that is part of the process, part of their work as they’ve been mandated to do so by the Secretary-General.

Inner City Press: When does the four-month clock start?

Spokesperson: I’ll let you know. So, I’m happy to take any other questions on this, but is this on the panel?

Ban was very proud of his Gaza panel, going so far as to interview himself -- or have UN Radio do it - in a mock “stakeout” in his North Lawn building office. Then he flew off to Japan.

Following Inner City Press' report that Mahinda Rajapaksa is listed as Sri Lanka's speaker in September's general debate, unprompted letters copied to Inner City Press have invited Ban's panel's three members to be sure to interview Rajapaksa at that time. We'll see.

Footnote: over the weekend, we noted that the Sri Lankan Mission to the UN's embattled and outgoing Deputy Permanent Representative might be providing some views early this week. He had formally invited Inner City Press to “lunch at the Sri Lankan restaurant” on August 2.

  But that morning, the Mission wrote to Inner City Press saying the DPR was “indisposed” and unable to attend, that it might be rescheduled. As it happens, the PR is throwing a farewell to his deputy on August 3, at a non-Sri Lankan restaurant on Third Avenue by the UN and Mission. To this, Inner City Press has yet to be included among the invitees. Interesting list that must be. Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, Sri Lanka Panel Stalled on Staffing, Rajapaksa's RSVP for September, Rice and Kyrgyz Constrasts

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 1 -- The UN's panel of experts on Sri Lanka war crimes and accountability has still not officially begun its work. Why not?

  Inner City Press is told that the hang up is the staffing for the panel. It has been confirmed that the initial plan was for the chief of staff to be Jessica Neuwirth, close ally and friend of UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay.

  But after reports alleging, at best, nepotism it was decided to switch to Richard Barrett, a staffer without similar connections. The fig leaf now is that Neuwirth's time on a UN system contract had expired -- true, that was the reason to find her a new job -- and that she is now a “consultant.” With the UN or its Human Rights Commission? That's a separate inquiry.

On the panel itself, its four month time line does not begin until it is fully staffed. So are the three experts not yet working, then? If so, did they start getting paid by the UN when they met at the UN back in July or not? The hotel rooms -- “at UN rates” -- were certainly paid by the UN. So it is hard to argue they are not yet working for the UN.

On the UN's schedule for its upcoming General Debate in September, Mahinda Rajapaksa is listed as attending. If he does, this would be a perfect time for the panel to interview him. His embattled minister of external affairs G.L. Peiris has already said the panel will not get visa to visit Sri Lanka. So let Mahinda cooperate with the panel while he is in New York. If, that is, he comes to New York.

Outgoing Japanese Ambassador Yuki Takasu, when asked on July 27 by Inner City Press to describe innovations during his time in charge of the Security Council's working methods, listed the Council's informal basement meetings on Sri Lanka, in the final stages of the conflict.

  Given the level of civilian killing, it is still not clear what those meetings accomplished. But now even Japan, through foreign minister Okada, has urged Sri Lanka to cooperate with the UN panel. Will it?

Later on July 27 at Takasu's farewell reception at his residence, Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative worked the crowd, including his U.S. counterpart Susan Rice. Ambassador Rice has claimed, contrary to her State Department colleague on Sudan Scott Gration, that accountability for war crimes is at the top of the Administration's agenda. Sri Lanka is a test.

Mahinda and Wimal Weerawansa, UN in September not shown

The approach not only of Ambassador Rice and Ban Ki-moon but others to this mere Sri Lanka panel stands in contrast to the unequivocal way the UN says it will participate in any independent international investigation into the causes of the recent violence in Southern Kyrgyzstan. From last week's UN transcripts, first of July 26:

Inner City Press: On Kyrgyzstan, the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative, Kimo Kiljunen, he said there’s going to be an investigation conducted by his organ… by a commission, international commission, of the violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. And he also said that the United Nations would be involved in the commission. So, I wanted to know, is that the case? What will be the United Nations role in an international investigation of the causes of violence in southern Kyrgyzstan?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Let me find out. Just a general point, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is not the same thing as the OSCE itself, as I’m sure you understand. So we would need to see precisely what the composition, the intended composition, would be. But the other more general point is that we’ve said already that there should be an independent investigation into the events that took place in Osh and Jalalabad and in the south of Kyrgyzstan. So let me get back to you on that, okay?

Having heard nothing back, Inner City Press asked again on July 30:

Inner City Press: you’d said you would find out, and I wanted to ask whether you have. One is, what is the UN’s role in any possible investigation into the causes of violence in southern Kyrgyzstan?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: As I mentioned to you, that is a work in progress amongst different international organizations. It is being actively looked at, and I know that my colleagues in the Department of Political Affairs are keeping a close eye and talking to their colleagues, as is Mr. Jenca, the Special Representative for Central Asia, Miroslav Jenca. No firm words yet. But, as I’ve said to you before, this is an area where we have been very closely watching. And not just watching, but involved in bringing people together, monitoring and reporting what’s been happening...

And on Sri Lanka?

The Sri Lankan Mission to the UN's outgoing Deputy Permanent Representative, who came in with a flurry of accusatory letters and leaves accused himself of sexual harassment of a Mission staffer, may be providing some views early this week. We hope they are on the record. Watch this site.

* * *

Sri Lanka Panel Holds 1st Meeting in NYC, "Doesn't Need UN Permission" for Colombo Visit, of Darusman Fees and Sea Bass

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 19 -- The UN Panel on Accountability in Sri Lanka began to meet on July 19, Inner City Press can report. This starts the four month time line for them to produce a report, at least on the compliance of Sri Lanka's “Lessons Learnt” panel with international standards for inquiries into war crimes.

   At 1:30 pm on July 19, panel members Marzuki Darusman, Yasmin Sooka and Steven Ratner met in the UN's North Lawn building. At that moment, at latest, the four month clock began.

  Along with chit chatting about what hotels they are staying in and where to go to dinner, Ratner noted that since UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky said it would be up to the panel whether to seek to visit Sri Lanka, “we don't have to ask the UN's permission.”

  The Rajapaksa government has already said it will deny visas, which Darusman called “unfortunate.”

   As Inner City Press has previously reported, and has now further confirmed with colleagues in Colombo, Sri Lankan government sources are pitching the tale of Darusman bickering about fees for his prior position on a Sri Lankan panel when it disbanded.

  While the motives of such pitches are clear, less clear is why the Ban Ki-moon administration or one of its advisers would have given the Rajapaksas such an easy issue to work with. We will have more on this.

  On July 19, Darusman said he was just in from Jakarta. Ratner, in from Ann Arbor, Michigan, noted that the UN listed hotels, that the UN will pay for, don't in fact have a UN rate. The Bentley, he said, is still not too expensive.

  There was a discussion of the more expensive Millennium Hotel, and of meeting over dinner in the Italian restaurant across the street.

UN's Ban, Nambiar and Haysom, permission to travel to Sri Lanka not shown

  It is Padre Figlio; inquiry by Inner City Press mid-day Monday found $86 Porterhouse steak on the menu. (In fairness, it is for two. A single portion of Chilean sea bass costs $32).

  Having met with the Department of Political Affairs of Lynn Pascoe, the panel was set to meet with Nicholas “Fink” Haysom at 2 pm. They were then observed, at 3:17 p.m., leaving the UN campus and entering the DC-1 building, with the Millennium Hotel, at 3:20 pm. The four month time clock, and expense accounts, have begun.

* * *

UN Sri Lanka Panel To Include Steven Ratner and Yasmin Sooka of S. Africa, Reconciliation or Accountability?

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Must Credit

UNITED NATIONS, June 21 -- On Sri Lanka war crimes, sources tell Inner City Press that the three names including not only former Indonesian attorney general Darusman but also American lawyer Steven Ratner, and South Africa's Yasmin Sooka, who served on that country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who was proposed by Ban advisor Nicholas Haysom, also of South Africa.

 According to these well placed sources, and contrary to unsourced reports in the Colombo press, there will be no Austrian on the panel.

After his widely criticized "victory tour" to Sri Lanka last May, during which interned Tamil children were forced to sing for him in the Vuvuniya camp, surrounded by barbed wire, Ban has hounded by calls to follow through on his and Mahinda Rajapaksa's statement at the end of the trip.

On March 5, Ban said he would name a panel to advise him "without delay." Now, belated, he is slated to name the panel this week.

Sri Lanka's banner of UN Ban, with gun, Vavuniya camps

 Sri Lanka is lashing out in advance, even as their ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona chairs an international investigation panel about the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Can you say, hypocrisy? 

  Kohona has also been named by Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar as having provided assurances that surrendering LTTE leaders would be treated in accordance with international law -- before they were killed. Kohona disputes the timing of his communications with Nambiar. 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.

* * *

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

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

            Copyright 2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -