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On Sri Lanka, UN Responsibility to Protect Cited, Abuse of IDPs Surfaces

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, May 5 -- When former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans came to the UN Security Council stakeout about the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty on May 5, he looked surprised to be asked a question about Sri Lanka. But Evans wrote a book about the Responsibility to Protect, a UN doctrine enshrined in a consensus General Assembly resolution. Inner City Press asked Evans if R2P, as it is known, applies to the situation of civilians in Northern Sri Lanka. Video here, from Minute 7:57.

   Evans asked that all nuclear questions be asked and answered first. This happened, touching as the U.S. statement on NPT did not, on Iran, as well as North Korea, Israel, China, Pakistan and India. Then Evan asked that the question be posed again. Inner City Press referred him to the bombing from the air, civilians trapped, as they are in internment camps even outside the conflict zone.

  "I've got no doubt this is an R2P case," Evans answered, calling it the "most alarming... atrocity crime we've seen in years."

UN's Ban and Gareth Evans, who says R2P Sri Lanka, action not yet shown

 He went on to say that the UN Security Council must get more involved, and chided those blocking the Council's consideration for going against the R2P resolution they agreed to in the General Assembly. But he does not favor "sending the Marines in," but rather diplomacy to find a way to surrender. Video here, from Minute 14:55.

   Some point to the situation in camps of those who've left the conflict zone, exposed most recently by Channel 4 in the UK with allegations of rape and disappearance, as another atrocity, and one that makes resolution less and less possible. There are increasing reports of young men chained naked for interrogation, and young women disappeared. The UN is saying little about this, and even so the government now threatens to expel the strikingly pro-government UN Resident Coordinator Neil Buhne.

  John Holmes, when asked about the interrogations in Kilinochchi, quickly said that interrogations are fine. Article here, exclusive video here at Minute 5:36. Can this be the UN position? Watch this site.

Footnote: We continue to wait for the UK's formal answer to the first of the two questions which Inner City Press asked the UK Mission to the UN two questions on Sri Lanka early on April 15:

Does the UK believe that international law and the rights of UN humanitarian staff are being violated by the now-acknowledged detention of UN staff in the Sri Lankan government's “IDP” camps?

It has been reported this morning that Sri Lanka's “minister also told the British Foreign Secretary that there was concern that the LTTE would continue to consolidate its fortification of the No-Fire Zone.” Please confirm the accuracy of that, and of this and if so, does the UK interpret it as saying that an offensive on the No-Fire Zone and the civilians in it will begin? What did the UK Foreign Secretary say?

  As of this press time weeks later, the formal answer has been referral to Minister Miliband's April 12 statement, and this. On April 21, Inner City Press put the question to U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, whose spokesman the following day cleared this response:  "UN personnel should have freedom of movement and be treated with respect." But they are still detained as of this writing. As more answers arrive or are released we will report them on 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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