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On Sri Lanka, After Ban Passes Buck to UN Councils, UN Won't Say If He's Raise to UNSC or Who Advised Him

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 26 -- The UN was unable or unwilling to answer questions about its Panel of Experts report into Sri Lanka war crimes on Tuesday, a day after Secretary General Ban Ki-moon belatedly released the report.

Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky three questions at Tuesday's noon briefing, not one of which was answered.

Ban's cover letter accompanying the report stated that for an “investigation mechanism, [Ban] is advised that this will require host country consent or a decision from Member States through an appropriate intergovernmental forum.”

Inner City Press asked, twice, BY WHOM was Ban advised that he doesn't have the power to investigate? Nesirky would not say. At opening the briefing, Nesirky had called it an “advisory” report. But the advise on what Ban can't do is not from the report.

Given a number of seeming errors in the report, such as misidentifying in Paragraph 171 the role of Presidential brother Basil Rajapaksa in the so-called White Flag killings in which Ban's own chief of staff Vijay Nambiar has acknowledged he was involved, without recusing himself from review of the report, Inner City Press asked Nesirky to explain this error, and to clarify Basil's role. Inner City Press had previously posed this question, and ones about Nambiar, by e-mail to Nesirky and his deputy Farhan Haq.

I will have to check that, Nesirky said, adding that the Panel's work has ceased when it turned the report in. Why this is being done differently that Ban's panel on the murder of Benazir Bhutto, on which a press conference with questions and answer with the Panel chairman was held after the release has not been explained.

Ban & M. Rajapaksa, Nambiar & actual investigation not shown

Even if one accepted Ban's argument for his own powerlessness, which Amnesty International and others do not, Ban could formally ask an intergovernmental body to vote on an investigation of war crimes in Sri Lanka.

Ban will be briefing the Security Council then the press on Tuesday afternoon. He will tell the Council not only about this recent trip to Ukraine, Hungary, Russia and elsewhere, but also about Cote d'Ivoire and, Nesirky said, Sri Lanka.

Inner City Press asked Nesirky if Ban will be asking the Security Council to take up and vote on his panel's recommendation for an international investigation of war crimes in Sri Lanka, since Ban is advised -- by whom, we still do not know, beyond noting it is the Rajapaksa's and Vijay Nambiar's position -- that he cannot order an investigation himself. Nesirky did not answer that either. Watch this site.

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On Sri Lanka, Ban Ki-moon's Buck Passing to UN Councils & Agencies Questioned, No Answers on Nambiar Role

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 26 -- In the hours after the belated release of the UN Panel of Experts' report on Sri Lanka war crimes, numerous diplomats expressed surprise to Inner City Press at Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's cover letter saying that for an “investigation mechanism, [Ban] is advised that this will require host country consent or a decision from Member States through an appropriate intergovernmental forum.”

  “That seems more than a little strange,” a Security Council member's ambassador who covers the issue told Inner City Press on Monday night at Colombia's end of Council presidency reception. Others mentioned for example Ban's investigation into the destruction of facilities in Gaza, and earlier UN probes.

  At a malaria event in the UN General Assembly lobby, Inner City Press asked one of Ban's advisers -- not his chief of staff, who was involved in the White Flag killings described in the Report at Paragraphs 170 and 171 -- whether Ban's passing the buck to “an appropriate intergovernmental forum” was a reference to the UN Human Right Council, which already converted a proposal on accountability into a celebration of the Rajapaksa's bloody victory.

  The Security Council, the Ban adviser responded to Inner City Press. But there a veto seems assured, based not only on the issue of Sri Lanka being kept off the Council's agenda in 2009 during what a then UN official called the “bloodbath on the beach,” but also comments made, notably by Russia, when the report was mentioned in the Security Council last week by Department of Political Affairs chief Lynn Pascoe.

  While the Permanent Representative of one of the states most interested in Sri Lanka told Inner City Press on Monday night that perhaps the make-up or balance of views in the Human Rights Council has changed since the last vote on Sri Lanka -- whose advocate at that time in Geneva has since been kept out of the loop -- for Ban to defer to the HRC and Security Council is a recipe for inaction and impunity.

   Monday evening at 9 pm US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice issued a statement, which does not address Ban's argument that he and the UN are powerless to order an investigation absent Rajapaksa consent or a vote in the Security Council, General Assembly or Human Rights Council, from which the US was initially unsuccessful in excluding Libya, and now seeks to exclude Syria. Click here for Rice's statement. A request to the French Mission's spokesmen for France's position was not been answered; a UK statement was said to be coming.

  Ban's Office of the Spokesperson has still not answered question about chief of staff Vijay Nambiar's involvement in the White Flag killings and in reviewing the Panel's report, which Inner City Press submitted on April 21 and again on April 25.

  Inner City Press debated these issues with a Sri Lankan journalist on radio on Monday night, click here for the podcast, and watch this site.

Footnote: while some media has made much of Ban's statement that “he will respond positively to the Panel's recommendation for a review of the UN's actions,” deferring even this to “after consultations with relevant agencies, funds and programs” is telling.

  UNICEF, for example, had its high energy biscuits excluded from Sri Lanka on the theory that the Tamil Tigers of the LTTE could eat and benefit from them, as detailed in the report. It was not any UN affiliate which withheld casualty figures: it was the Secretariat, and Ban's own chief of staff's role most needs to be investigated. But Ban has allowed him to be involved even in reviewing the report. Watch this site.

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As UN Releases Sri Lanka Report, Ban Says He Can't Investigate w/o Consent or Vote

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 25, updated with link -- After close of business on April 25, the UN belatedly released -- and immediately undermined the recommendations of -- its Panel of Experts report on war crimes in Sri Lanka, eleven days after the UN told Sri Lankan Deputy Permanent Representative Shavendra Silva it would be released in 36 hours.

The Report was released along with a page and a half cover letter by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, which in pertinent part states that

“In regard to the recommendation that he establish an international investigation mechanism, the Secretary-General is advised that this will require host country consent or a decision from Member States through an appropriate intergovernmental forum.”

    Ban "is advised" by whom? This is a huge letdown, and some say abdication. We will have more on this.

  Click here to view UN-released report.

  Inner City Press, which obtained and quickly up online Monday morning a leaked copy of the report, asked Silva about the report and its delayed release late Monday afternoon in front of the UN Security Council, which Silva visited for more than a half hour.

Silva said he'd seen the publication on Inner City Press, as well as the day's UN noon briefing, at which questions about the involvement of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar were left unanswered.

Silva is quoted in the Panel's report, as well as his role in the 58th Battalion, which moved in on the so-called No Fire Zones. He was polite but non committal.

  Ban's undermining of the Report's recommendation must make him, and the Rajapaksa and certain others, relieved.

Ban and Nambiar, Sri Lanka report now shown, relief in some quarters

Ban's spokesperson's office has refused to answer questions about Nambiar, not only in the briefing but also in writing. On Monday before the release of the Report by the UN, Inner City Press asked some factual questions, militating for a press conference by the Panel members and Mr. Nambiar:

Paragraph 171 states that “Defence Secretary Basil Rajapaksa provided assurances that their surrender would be accepted... following a particular route indicated by Basil Rajapaksa.”

Factual questions: since Gotabaya Rajapaksa was and is the Defense Secretary, is this just a typo?

Who is the Panel saying indicated the route: Basil or Gotabya Rajapaksa?

And when specifically did the OSSG know about the Feb 22 meeting between Mohan Peiris and the Panel, as set forth in Annex 2 of the Report?

Also please state the role of Mr. Nambiar in reviewing the report, please disclose how much was spent by the UN in preparing the report, please state whether the Panel or any member traveled to Sri Lanka and if not, why not, and please deny or confirm and describe any meeting by any Sri Lanka government official since the Panel's work began.

None of these questions have been answered. Watch this site.

From the Panel of Experts report:

The "White Flag" incident

170. Various reports have alleged that the political leadership of the LTTE and their dependents were executed when they surrendered to the SLA. In the very final days of the war, the head of the LTTE political wing, Nadesan, and the head of the Tiger Peace Secretariat Pulidevan, were in regular communication with various interlocutors to negotiate surrender. They were reportedly with a group of around 300 civilians. The LTTE political leadership was initially reluctant to agree to an unconditional surrender, but as the SLA closed in on the group in their final hideout, Nadesan and Pulidevan, and possibly Colonel Ramesh, were prepared to surrender unconditionally. This intention was communicated to officials of the United Nations and of the Governments of Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as to representatives of the ICRC and others. It was also conveyed through intermediaries to Mahinda, Gotabaya and Basil Rajapaksa, former Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona and senior officers in the SLA.

171. Both President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Basil Rajapaksa [sic?] provided assurances that their surrender would be accepted. These were conveyed by intermediaries to the LTTE leaders, who were advised to raise a white flag and walk slowly towards the army, following a particular route indicated by Basil Rajapaksa.[sic?]  Requests by the LTTE for a third party to be present at the point of surrender were not granted. Around 6.30 a.m. on 18 May 2009. Nadesan and Pulidevan left their hide-out to walk towards the area held by the 58th Division, accompanied by a large group, including their families. Colonel Ramesh followed behind them, with another group. Shortly afterwards, the BBC and other television stations reported that Nadesan and Pulidevan had been shot dead. Subsequently, the Government gave several different accounts of the incident. While there is little information on the circumstances of their death, the Panel believes that the LTTE leadership intended to surrender.

  On the morning of April 21, Inner City Press asked Ban's top two spokesmen to "please state the role of Mr. Nambiar in reviewing the report." No response has yet been received, more than 60 hours later. We will have more on this. 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.

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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

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