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On Sri Lanka War Crimes, US’ Rice Supports UN’s Ban, So Panel Without Delay?

[Inner City Press, Friday, 14 May 2010 09:16 No Comment]

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told the Press on Thursday, "the Secretary General has a very constructive and worthy interest in accountability inside Sri Lanka and we support his leadership in that regard." Video here, from Minute 8:46.

For two months the Sri Lankan government has lobbied against UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s March 5 announcement he would "without delay" name a panel of experts to advise him about war crimes in the country.

Last week, President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced the country’s own "mechanism" to look at "lessons learned." When US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice on May 10 issued a statement welcoming and setting benchmarks for the Rajapaksas’ mechanism, without mentioning Mr. Ban’s proposal, it brought into question whether the U.S. supported Ban’s move toward outside review.

Inner City Press on May 11 sought comments from Ambassador Rice and the State Department, and from Human Rights Watch. The latter responded first, by way of Tom Malinowski, HRW’s Washington Advocacy Director:

“Sri Lanka has a long history of failed commissions of inquiry and there is no indication that this one will be any different. Everyone should be asking what happened to the committee Sri Lanka established in response to the October US State department report. The members of that inquiry were initially supposed to report in December 2009 and then in April, but nobody has heard from them since. The Sri Lankan government launches these efforts from time to time not because it wants to bring out the truth, but because it wants to delay calls for an international investigation. There is no reason to let this process play itself out again to its inevitable, inconclusive end before calling for an independent, international inquiry, which is realistically the only way forward.”

On May 13, after Ambassador Rice spoke of positive developments in the UN Human Rights Council since the U.S. joined — she did not mention the flip of the EU proposed resolution about the killing of civilians by Sri Lanka’s government into one praising and demanding resources for the government — she took four questions, about Libya, Iran and at the end, Sri Lanka.

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US Rice and UN Ban, action on accountability not yet shown

Inner City Press asked Ambassador Rice to clarify her May 10 statement — does the U.S. support Ban Ki-moon’s stated intention to without delay name a panel to advice him on war crime in Sri Lanka, or does the Sri Lankan mechanism replace that?

"As I think you know, Matt, my statement didn’t address that one way or another," Ambassador Rice began. Yours "is a different question. Why don’t you ask that question, instead of asking me to reinterpret my statement?"

The question re-asked, Ambassador Rice said that "the Secretary General has a very constructive and worthy interest in accountability inside Sri Lanka and we support his leadership in that regard." Video here, from Minute 8:46.

Ironically, a senior Ban administration official on May 11 told Inner City Press, in light of Ambassador Rice’s statement, that Ban would now wait to see how the Sri Lankan mechanism developed before acting on his stated intention to name his own panel "without delay." Now what? What this site.

Inner City Press: Investigative Reporting from the United Nations

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