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On Sri Lanka, UN Inaction on Torture, Refugees, Peacekeepers’ War Crimes and Sexual Abuse

[Inner City Press, Sunday, 25 October 2009 09:26 No Comment]

While the UN claims to be much concerned about civilians in and from Sri Lanka, a week of questioning five separate officials at UN headquarters tells a different story. When Inner City Press asked the UN’s special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak if he’d looked into the case of the two UN system staff members disappeared and they say tortured by the Sri Lankan government, he said no. Video here.

Inner City Press has asked two of the spokespeople for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon what is the UN system doing about the Sri Lankan asylum seekers on hunger strike in Indonesia, blocked from Australia, and now off Canada. Each time an answer has been promised, but none has been provided.

With UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on a panel about human trafficking, Inner City Press asked what the UN made of claims that these Tamil asylum seekers were somehow engaged in traffic. Ms. Pillay did not answer, leaving another panelist to answer, in essence, not necessarily. Video here.

Meanwhile, despite most recently the US State Department report detailing what elsewhere are called war crimes, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations is contracting for 198 more Sri Lankan soldiers to patrol in Haiti. Inner City Press asked what safeguards are in place to determine if any of the supposed peacekeepers were themselves engaged in crimes of war. UN associate spokesman Farhan Haq replied, "DPKO relies upon the troop-contributing countries to vet all of their soldiers to make sure that their records are clean regarding any sort of involvement in violations." This position was repeated by a representative of UN Police. Video here.

sri1haiti At a Friday press conference promoting a concert for Peacekeeping, sponsored by Chinese businessmen who contracted for photographs with Ban Ki-moon, a pro-UN director spoke glowingly of the Sri Lankan troops in Haiti. Inner City Press noted that a full contingent was sent home amid charges of sexual abuse and exploitation. They talked about that, the director answered, they said there were some bad apples. Video here.

  Meanwhile in Toronto, Tamils have protested in front of UNICEF. Is it any wonder?

From the October 23 trancript:

Inner City Press: I’ve seen that Sri Lanka is sending a contingent of 198 peacekeepers to Haiti on 8 November, and I’m wondering, in light of the Office of the Human Rights finding, this United States State Department finding, looking into war crimes, and a European Union thing on [inaudible], there’s a lot of findings — what is DPKO [the Department of Peacekeeping Operations] going to do in terms of making sure that the soldiers sent didn’t participate in what now a number of people say credibly may be war crimes? What safeguards are in place?

Associate Spokesperson Haq: As you know, as a standard rule, DPKO relies upon the troop-contributing countries to vet all of their soldiers to make sure that their records are clean regarding any sort of involvement in violations.

Inner City Press: Investigative Reporting from the United Nations

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