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On Sri Lanka, UN’s Alston Probes Execution Video, Kaelin Says His Praise Was Misquoted

[Inner City Press, Wednesday, 28 October 2009 08:56 No Comment]

As Sri Lanka announces another internal investigation of the war crimes charges against it, at the UN on Tuesday the Special Rapporteur on executions Philip Alston told the Press he has "begun to commission some analyses of that video tape" depicting Sri Lankan soldiers shooting bound and naked prisoners. Video here, from Minute 6:56.

Inner City Press asked Alston about the reports that people seeking to surrender in May, waving white flags after in some cases speaking with UN officials, were shot and killed, reportedly on orders from the highest ranks of the Sri Lanka military. Video here, from Minute 11:13.

   "Let’s have an independent inquiry," Alston said, noting that past "investigations" by the government were not independent. He used as his example that two Sri Lankan military figures were charged with investigating the execution video. The government of Sri Lanka cannot be proud of its track record, Alston said.

 UN Rapporteur Alston at UN before, OHCHR investigation of Sri Lanka not shown Before commissioning his own analysis of the video, Alston said he "would have liked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights" Navi Pillay to have undertaken an investigation, as was done for example by Justice Richard Goldstone of the conflict in Gaza this year.

Inner City Press asked Alston about the countries on the Human Rights Council which have rebuffed his requests to visit, including both China and Russia, which blocked Security Council consideration of the conflict in Sri Lanka this Spring. Alston said "there has to be a limit," presumably to what members of the Human Rights Council can do. But for now, there are no limits. Alston’s mandate expires in August 2010 and will no be renewed.

Two other Rapporteurs, on Internally Displaced People and freedom of religion, also took questions about Sri Lanka on Tuesday. Inner City Press asked IDP expert Walter Kaelin about a headline in Sri Lanka, "UN envoy pleased with progress," in the Sunday Observer of September 27.

Kaelin said he’d never spoken with that newspaper, and went on to criticize the conditions in the Manik Farms camps. He said people were being moved out. Inner City Press asked if the so called transit camps also restrict movement. He said that they did, and that this did not comply with international humanitarian law. Video here. But the UN keeps funding it, apparently.

Inner City Press asked about IDPs’ right to return to their homes, and not be displaced, as some say is planned in northern Sri Lanka east of A9, by members of other ethnic grounds. While Kaelin said there is a right to return which the government of Sri Lanka has not disputed, he acknowledged that he is not able to closely monitor what happens on the ground. And therein lies the problem.

[Full Coverage]

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