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US Urges Sri Lanka to “Use” in a “Process of Accountability” the UN Panel Report - Which Ban Ki-moon Still Withholds

By Matthew Russell Lee

WASHINGTON DC, April 14 -- On Sri Lanka, the Obama administration would like the Mahinda Rajapaksa government to “use” the Panel of Experts report on presumptive war crimes in the final stages of the conflict, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told Inner City Press on Thursday.

Toner said the US has “encouraged the Sri Lankan government to engage in a process of accountability” and to “use the Panel of Experts and its expertise to address that.” Video here.

Two days ago, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gave the long delayed reported to the Rajapaksa government while not releasing it to the public. Despite Ban's repeated claims that his Panel could travel to Sri Lanka, it never did.

Instead a meeting -- which the UN denied and / or concealed -- was held at the UN in New York between Sri Lanka's Attorney General Mohan Peiris, the Panel's three members and Ban's top political adviser, former US State Department official B. Lynn Pascoe.

According to the Sri Lankans, it was Pascoe that urged and agreed that the meeting should be secret. So a former US State Department official is engaging in secret negotiations with a government accused of war crimes, while the US and UN both preach transparency.

Then again, asked about Pakistan at the briefing, Toner said “I don't discuss drone strikes.” Some things, it seems, are simply not discussed. But why should war crimes in Sri Lanka be one of them?

   Toner also answered an Inner City Press questions on Sudan, and took ICP questions on Cote d'Ivoire and visas, on which we will be reporting shortly.

From the US State Department transcript, video here:

Inner City Press: A question on Sri Lanka. There’s this report that was commissioned by the UN about war crimes, I think, final stage of the conflict. It’s been shown to the Government of Sri Lanka but still hasn’t been given to the public? Does the U.S. have any – one, does it think it should be made public? And what steps does it think should be taken? Does it think that the internal --

MR. TONER: This is the UN Panel of Experts report?

Inner City Press: That’s correct. Yep.

MR. TONER: Yeah. I can get you more detail on that, but we, obviously, have encouraged the Sri Lankan Government to engage in a process of accountability and to also use this panel of experts and their expertise, obviously, to address some of the questions.

Inner City Press: The government’s already kind of condemned the Panel, and I wonder whether the U.S. thinks this Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission that the government set up itself – was that sufficient? Or are you looking for more –

MR. TONER: And again, I think that we believe that the Lessons Learnt commission and Reconciliation commission were good steps. But we believe also that the UN Panel of Experts is a useful asset and should be taken advantage of by the government.

Inner City Press: Thanks.

* * *

Asked If Ban Ki-moon's Panel Met Sri Lanka AG, UN Said “That Is Simply Not the Case" -- Misleading Report?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 12 -- To prepare the UN report on accountability for presumptive war crimes in Sri Lanka, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon claimed in December and January that his panel could travel to Sri Lanka due to the “flexibility” of President Rahinda Rajapaksa, who along with his brothers is accused of the war crimes at issue.

Once Rajapaksa blocked the announced trip, talk turned to sending Sri Lankan officials including Attorney General Mohan Peiris to New York to meet with Ban and his Panel.

On February 23, Inner City Press photographed the beginning of the meeting between Ban and Mohan Peiris and others including another accused of war crimes, General Shavendra Silva. Click here for Inner City Press report on that meeting, which had been denied.

   Before and after, Inner City Press asked if Ban's panel would meet with the Sri Lankan officials, but no answer was given.

  On March 7, Inner City Press directly asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky about “a report in Sri Lanka quoting UN sources, saying that after a meeting between the Attorney General of Sri Lanka and Mr. Ban and other officials, there was another meeting with, in fact, the Secretary-General’s Panel. That, I just want you to either confirm or deny that.” Click here.

Nesirky replied that “the reporting over the weekend suggested that there was a secret meeting with the Secretary-General, and you know as well as I do, because you were there, that that is simply not the case. You were there taking pictures, so the reporting may be a little bit shaky.”

So, Inner City Press asked if there was a meeting of the Sri Lankan officials “with, in fact, the Secretary-General’s Panel” -- and Nesirky's answer was “that is simply not the case.”

Inner City Press published an article on March 7 that the UN was denying the occurrence of a meeting with Ban's Panel -- which is what Inner City Press asked Nesirky about, even as transcribed by the UN.

On March 28, after even a high South African official spoke of the Sri Lankans' meeting with Ban's Panel, Inner City Press again asked Nesirky

the Vice-President of South Africa, in a formal address to and Q and A with the Parliament, said that he understands that the panel, Ban Ki-moon’s panel, met with the Sri Lankans here in March... did the panel meet that day, that mysterious day, or some other day in March with Sri Lankan officials?”

Nesirky did not answer that question, and after Inner City Press' next question, Nesirky left the briefing room. Since then he has tried to block Inner City Press from asking follow up questions, and has even told Inner City Press in advance that he won't answer its questions.  Why, one wonders, go to a briefing where questions are responded to in this way?

Ban & Nesirky, denial that Lankans met with Ban Panel not shown

On April 12, for the noon briefing at which Ban's receipt -- but not release to the public -- of the Sri Lanka Panel report was to be announced, Nesirky did not appear. He sent his deputy Farhan Haq to deny that he has been misleading:

Inner City Press: from this podium, I don’t know if it was only Martin or if it was you as well, it was said that there was no meeting in March when the Attorney General of Sri Lanka came, no meeting… there was a meeting with the Secretary-General, but no meeting with the Panel.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: No, no, Matthew; you’re mischaracterizing. He said that the Secretary-General met with the Panel. He said that he did not comment on what the Panel did.

Inner City Press: I saw the briefing. So are you confirming now that there was a meeting between the Attorney General…

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: Matthew, I saw the exact same briefing. Like I said, the work of the Panel will be detailed in the report and you can see for yourself what they’ve done.

Inner City Press: But this is important, though. Can you say for yourself that the meeting took place? I mean, we can go over the transcript, but it seemed pretty clear that this meeting was not disclosed.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: Go over the transcript. I remember this. You tried to put some words into his mouth, in which you said he denied there was a meeting, and which he explicitly did not [deny].

This last shows at Ban's spokesman's office feels free to add words to its transcriptions. But even as it has transcribed it, the answers on Sri Lanka are troubling. And now what of the report? We will have more on this.

* * *
On Sri Lanka, UN's Haq Insists His Denial Meant Nambiar Isn't Target of ICC Complaint, Is Only Called a "Co-Perpetrator"

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 11 -- On Sri Lanka, a complaint filed with the International Criminal Court against Palitha Kohona states of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff that there is “a basis to question whether Vijay Nambiar was in fact an innocent neutral intermediary or in fact a co-perpetrator within the negotiation related community.”

Inner City Press on February 21 published a story containing that quote, and this paragraph from the complaint:

"NAMBIAR again through the United Nations-24 hour dispatch center in New York. NAMBIAR replied to COLVIN that MAHINDA RAJAPAKSE, GOTABAYA RAJAPAKSE, AND PALITHA KOHONA had assured NAMBIAR that the LTTE members would be safe in surrendering to the SLA and treated like “normal prisoners of war” if they “hoist[ed] a white flag high.”

Days later Ban's Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq sent a reporter an on the record statement that

The Inner City Press story is inaccurate; there has been no complaint formally filed at the International Criminal Court.”

Inner City Press asked Ban's lead spokesman Martin Nesirky to explain Haq's statement, but Nesirky refused, saying that Haq had sent it to another journalist, not Inner City Press. But it was an on the record response. Still, no answer, including from Nambiar.

On March 11, for the first time in weeks Haq and not Nesirky took questions at the UN's noon briefing. Alongside questions about the vetting of Ban's envoy to Libya and UN actions in Sudan, Inner City Press asked Haq to explain his statement.

After attempting the evade the question by calling it "all of your personal things"  and saying it could be addressed outside of the briefing room -- Inner City Press has asked outside of the briefing, without answer -- Haq now argued that he had been asked if the ICC complaint named -- that is, was against -- Nambiar.

But Haq's statement in his e-mail, which Inner City Press published on February 23 and is reproduced in full below, did not refer to whether Nambiar was the named target, which he couldn't be as a citizen of India, which is not a member of the ICC. (Kohona is named because he is a joint citizen of Australia, which IS an ICC member.)

UN's Haq in briefing room, belated e-mail spin not shown

  Rather, Haq's statement called inaccurate “the Inner City Press story,” which quoted directly from the ICC filing, as set forth above. The story was not inaccurate.

  It appears, including to the journalist who received the e-mail from Haq, that the goal was to convince other media to ignore any link between Nambiar and the ICC complaint, and the underlying killing including “white flag murders” in Sri Lanka.

Even many of those closest to Ban Ki-moon have questioned why Ban sent to Sri Lanka former Indian ambassador Nambiar, given India's interest in Sri Lanka especially after the murder of Rajiv Gandhi, and with Nambiar's brother Satish writing publicly in praise of the Rajapaksas military campaign in Northern Sri Lanka which has given rise to the war crimes charges.

  One Ban insider says, “It's not really Nambiar's fault, Ban should just never have made him the envoy to Sri Lanka.”

  But the mistakenly-given role of Nambiar for the UN in Sri Lanka has so distorted the Ban administration's and the UN's response to the events in Sri Lanka that the spokespeople act as described above, and won't even answer with whom Ban's Panel on Sri Lanka met. It is a low point in Ban Ki-moon's tenure as UN Secretary General.

From the UN's transcription of its March 11 noon briefing:

Inner City Press: there was a filing with the International Criminal Court (ICC), admittedly not by a Government but by a private group, naming the Sri Lankan Ambassador here, but also having two paragraphs concerning the Chief of Staff of the Secretary-General, Vijay Nambiar. And I, it has come to my attention that you wrote to a journalist saying that this is inaccurate; that there is no complaint filed with the ICC. And I wanted to know what the basis of that statement was, since they claim it was filed and they have proof of filing?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: Again, you know, this briefing is not for me to discuss all of your personal things. We can always discuss this outside. The basic point is a reporter — and I don’t know what his exchange with you was, but his exchange with me was whether a complaint had been filed naming Mr. Nambiar. That is not the case.

  But here is what Haq sent out:

From: Farhan Haq [at]
Date: Tue, Feb 22, 2011 at 7:16 PM
Re: Question about Nambiar, ICC and Burma envoy role

Yes, he is still the acting Special Adviser on Myanmar.

The Inner City Press story is inaccurate; there has been no complaint formally filed at the International Criminal Court. Please ask the ICC for anything more on that.

As for a full-time Special Adviser, Ban Ki-moon has been considering that idea; there is nothing to announce for now.

 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]

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

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