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UN: Sri Lanka


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On Sri Lanka, UN Pays Petrie Part-Time, No Check on Others' Payments?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 19 -- Back in September 2011, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that the UN's acts and omissions during the killing of thousands of civilians in Sri Lanka in 2009 would be investigated by UN official Thoraya Obaid who would issue a report in four months time.

  Nine months later, no report had been issued. Inner City Press asked why not. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said for the first time that Obaid had not been able to do the report, but that another on-again off-again UN official, Charles Petrie, was now on the case and would issue a report shortly.

  While Inner City Press has heard that the report is finished -- being buried? -- it has not been released. And Inner City Press learned that Petrie has another job, with the Norway government funded Myanmar Peace Support Initiative (MPSI), which is also controversial.

  It made Inner City Press wonder: how could Petrie do two jobs at once? How he work for the UN and, essentially, for the Norwegian government at the same time, in seeming violation of Article 100 of the UN Charter?

   Inner City Press first wrote about this; then when the Irrawaddy asked Petrie he answered that he supervised three other UN officials -- which ones? Were they full time? -- and was paid "When Actually Employed." This has been noted in Sri Lanka's Nation on Sunday and Daily Mirror.

  Inner City Press asked, on October 11 and then again on October 12; spokesman Martin Nesirky said, "If I have anything further, then I will let you know."

  For nearly a week, Inner City Press heard nothing back. Then on the evening of October 18, the UN Spokesperson's office sent this:

Subject: Your question on Charles Petrie
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 7:40 PM
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]

Mr. Petrie was appointed by the Secretary-General to undertake an internal review of UN actions in the final stages and aftermath of the conflict in Sri Lanka, a review recommended by the Secretary-General's Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka. Mr. Petrie agreed to conduct this internal review on a part-time basis, with the understanding that he would continue to serve on a part-time basis as Coordinator of the Norwegian-led Myanmar Peace Support Initiative.

Under the terms of his contract, Mr. Petrie is employed part time - on a "when actually employed" basis - as a United Nations staff member. Accordingly, the Organization’s Staff Regulations and Staff Rules are applicable only during the days of his service. When he is actually employed by the UN, he is not performing other functions.

  There remains a problem with this formal answer -- it implies that as long as a person doing work for the UN is called "When Actually Employed" -- even if reviewing the UN's own inaction during a country's presumptive war crimes -- there is NO review by the UN of possible conflicts of interest in the person's other work.

  That is, by this logic, the person could be employed by the country itself, during the days or hours the UN is not paying him.

   Beyond this structural problem, more concretely and pressingly, where is the report on the UN in Sri Lanka? Watch this site.

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