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At UN, Ban Cites Old Sri Lanka Calls to Evade War Crimes Findings

[Inner City Press, Friday, 8 January 2010 10:21 No Comment]

The UN on January 7 responded to Press questions about a report finding authentic a video of war crimes by Sri Lanka’s army by saying Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the government he is considering appointing a panel of experts on human rights issues. But later it emerged Ban’s statement was months ago, and nothing has been done since.

At the January 7 noon briefing at the UN, Inner City Press asked Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky a series of questions, set forth below. After two follow ups, Nesirky said that " the Secretary-General has informed the Government of Sri Lanka that he is considering the appointment of a Commission of Experts to advise him further and to assist the Government in taking measures to address possible violations of international human rights and humanitarian law."

Inner City Press asked Nesirky when Ban has conveyed this to Sir Lanka, and Nesirky said "I need to find out."

While this seemed newsworthy, including to AP and Fox — and to Al Jazeera, which interviewed this reporter and concluded that "Ban Ki-moon will now appoint a commission" — Inner City Press later on January 7 asked one of Ban’s most senior advisers on the third floor of the UN’s new North Lawn building when this Ban statement had been made. Months ago, the adviser admitted. It was reported at the time.

Some say Ban and his spokesman were intentionally trying to dodge the bullet of the damning human rights finding by Special Rapporteur Philip Alston by recycling an old announcement without saying when it was from.

sri1alston

Philip Alston, calling for UN’s Ban’s action, recycled evastion not shown

From the January 7 transcript:

Inner City Press: Earlier this morning, sitting where you are, the Special Rapporteur on summary executions, Philip Alston, said, among other things, that he has found that this video of summary execution by the Sri Lankan Army he thinks is credible and should be subject to an independent external investigation, and when asked, he basically said that the Secretary-General, he believes, has the power and should appoint such a panel as he has done in the case of Guinea, for example. What’s the Secretary-General’s response? He said there should be accountability for events in the final stage of the conflict. What is he doing on his statement that there should be? And will he do what Mr. Alston is suggesting?

Spokesperson Nesirky: Two things. The Technical Note that’s been presented by the Special Rapporteur highlights the need for a credible, independent and impartial investigation into allegations of violations of human rights and international law by all sides in the conflict in Sri Lanka. And the UN, and particularly the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, stands ready to assist the Government in this respect.

The second point is that the Secretary-General would note that precisely the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has repeatedly called for a full, broad, and impartial investigation into allegations of violations of human rights and international law. A full and impartial investigation is critical if we are to confront impunity and bring perpetrators of such violations to justice. The UN stands ready to assist the Government in this respect.

Inner City Press: Just one follow-up on that. In the case of Guinea, for example, it wasn’t done through the Human Right Commission, it was done… the Secretary-General appointed three people. What’s the distinction? Why in this case would he be looking to Geneva where, already, the Human Rights Council, given its make-up, voted against doing any investigation of this?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The Office of the High Commissioner has already called for this. So this call is already out there. One doesn’t need to start a second track on that. What I would also point out is that there was, as you know, a visit by the Secretary-General, and, in the end, there was a joint statement where he underlined the importance of accountability. And also where the Government of Sri Lanka undertook to take measures to address the grievances of the victims of the conflict. And the Secretary-General has informed the Government of Sri Lanka that he is considering the appointment of a Commission of Experts to advise him further and to assist the Government in taking measures to address possible violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and indeed the establishment of such a commission is receiving detailed consideration in the Secretariat.

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