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Two UN Views of Sri Lankan Killing Video, Holmes in Norway Putting Out Fires

[Inner City Press, Friday, 4 September 2009 07:51 No Comment]

holmes1bansri In the wake of the Norwegian memo which criticized the UN’s Ban Ki-moon for lacking "moral authority" during his visit to Sri Lanka and since — a critique that Ban dodged during his pass through Oslo this week — UN humanitarian coordinator John Holmes arrived to take a second attempt to blunt the issue. First, Holmes offered praise to Norway, telling Aftenposten it "is one of the most important countries in this area, both in terms of assistance and expertise. Therefore, I try to stop by occasionally to talk with Norwegian leaders."

He didn’t say when the last of these "occasional" visits to Oslo was. The timing, right after the Norwegian memo which specifically named Holmes as wanting the UN’s political or chief of staff job and criticized Ban’s "silent" diplomacy style, was hardly subtle.

   In fact, Holmes used the Aftenposten interview to deny wanting any other job, and to say that, just as Ban is contrasted unfavorably with the flashier Kofi Annan, he acknowledges that his predecessor Jan Egeland was more strident, that he "used the media actively… I’m more of a type that is set in the doors."

Notably, Holmes was more explicit that Ban Ki-moon’s spokespeople have been about the leaked video depicting the Sri Lankan Army committing summary executions, saying that "We have received a guarantee from the government that it will be created an independent body to investigate such incidents. So far they have not kept [their] word. If nothing happens, we have to do something… the government has only ‘weeks or months, not years, to initiate such an investigation."

Later on September 3, after receiving word of Holmes’ statement from a fellow journalist in Oslo, Inner City Press asked Ban’s Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe if the Secretariat, to which President Mahinda Rajapaksa made his supposed commitment, would finally be clearer about the need to investigate the presumably war crimes in the video footage.

Inner City Press: yesterday Ambassador Rice said that the US was deeply concerned about that video from the Sri Lankan army apparently conducting summary executions and said more information is needed. I’m just wondering, I couldn’t figure out from what you’d said, what has been said from here before. The Secretary-General said he’s concerned about human rights violations, including this video, but notes the Government’s rejection of it. Does the Secretary-General believe that there should be an investigation, if not by the Government, then by an outside source about the…?

Deputy Spokesperson: If you look at that statement a little bit more carefully, I think it talks about the three points that were agreed between the Secretary-General and the Sri Lankan Government, one of which talks about the need to establish a proper mechanism to look into these violations. And of course any allegations as serious as those made in the video would be part of such an inquiry like that. And, as far as Sri Lanka is concerned, we may have something further. The Secretary-General in Geneva is scheduled to be meeting with the Sri Lankan Minister for Disaster Management, I believe, the correct title I may not have at the top of head right, but that meeting should be going on right now. And so we may have a readout on that for you.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the Secretary-General met in Geneva with Mahinda Samarasinghe, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights, to discuss such matters. They discussed the conditions in camps housing internally displaced persons, particularly with the approaching monsoon season. They also discussed the return of internally displaced persons, as well as the importance of the free movement of people among the camps and free movement of United Nations and international humanitarian workers. They talked about the importance of reconciliation. They also discussed accountability, particularly in light of the recent accusations of extrajudicial executions.]

So Ban and Samarasinghe "discussed accountability, particularly in light of the recent accusations of extrajudicial executions." What did they discuss? Watch this site.

[Full Coverage]

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