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On War Crimes, UN’s Ban Listens to Sri Lanka President over Alston’s Views

[Inner City Press, Tuesday, 12 January 2010 11:44 No Comment]

Days after video footage depicting Sri Lankan soldiers murdering naked and blindfolded prisoners was authenticated by UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to comment on Alston’s urging him to establish a commission of inquiry on war crimes, as Mr. Ban did in Guinea. Video here, from Minute 16:38.

Mr. Ban’s answer, surprising to some, distanced Mr. Alston from the UN, giving weight to the Sri Lankan government’s out of hand rejection of the video and Mr. Alston’s requests.

Ban said of Alston, "he is the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council. He is acting independently. You might have heard statements made by the Sri Lankan Government and his own personal one. We will review all these situations."

The "statements made by the Sri Lankan government" since Alston’s report have consisted of claiming Alston violated UN protocol by releasing his experts’ report authenticating the video.

When Inner City Press asked Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky about Sri Lanka’s accusations on January 8, Nesirky emphasized that Sri Lanka had not accused Ban of violating protocol. He is correct: by undercutting a UN human rights rapporteur’s report by noting the government’s denial.

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UN’s Ban and Nesirky, Sri Lankan independent inquiry not shown

From the January 11 transcript:

Inner City Press: I also wanted to know if you had any response to Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on executions, calling on you to name a Commission of Inquiry for war crimes in Sri Lanka. He said that you did it in Guinea, you could do it in Sri Lanka, and I am wondering what you think of his report and his call?

SG Ban Ki-moon: I have seen the report, and he is the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council. He is acting independently. You might have heard statements made by the Sri Lankan Government and his own personal one. We will review all these situations and we will what the United Nations can do to follow up on these issues. There are still many issues pending: the relocation of displaced persons in Sri Lanka by the end of this month, and the political reconciliation process and also the accountability process, which I have talked to President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa during my visit, to which he had agreed to take the necessary actions. I will continue to follow up on this issue. Thank you very much.

On January 7, Nesirky told the Press that Ban had let the Sri Lankan government know that he is considering appointing experts to advise him on war crimes in Sri Lanka. Inner City Press asked when Ban had said this, and Nesirky said he’d check.

Later he confirmed to Inner City Press that the call was three months ago, a letter delivered by the UN’s Lynn Pascoe in September. Still, Nesirky insisted, the idea remains "under active consideration."

[Full Coverage]

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