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On UN Role in Sri Lanka War Crimes, Ban Rejects Then Denies Rejecting Allegations

[Inner City Press, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 08:48 No Comment]

"I totally reject all that kind of allegations," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Press on Monday, responding to a question about the UN’s involvement in war crimes in Sri Lanka. Video here, from Minute 38:07.

Two minutes later, in response to a second question from Inner City Press, Mr. Ban said, "I rejected it? I don’t know I ever said I reject it." Video here, from Minute 40:07.

Inner City Press had initially asked Mr. Ban about the International Crisis Group report, which even in the Executive Summary calls for "an independent international inquiry into… the UN’s September 2008 withdrawal from Kilinochchi through to its ineffectual attempts to push for a ceasefire and its involvement in Sri Lankan government internment camps."

  Would the group of expert Ban committed eighty day ago to name to advise him have jurisdiction over the UN’s own actions and inactions?

Beyond "totally reject[ing]" ICG’s criticism of the UN’s and Ban’s performance on Sri Lanka, Ban said that his panel would only address "international standards" applicable to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission belated announced by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

To some, there was a parallel: Rajapaksa rejected any allegation that his soldiers killed civilians, before conducting any investigation. And at Monday’s press conference, Ban Ki-moon totally rejected ICG’s call for an "inquiry into… the UN’s September 2008 withdrawal from Kilinochchi through to its ineffectual attempts to push for a ceasefire and its involvement in Sri Lankan government internment camps."

To these, Inner City Press added the issues raised by Ban’s chief of staff Vijay Nambiar’s still murky role in encouraging the surrender of rebel leaders who were then summarily executed. Video here, from Minute 37:16.  In fairness, this may have thrown Ban off and led to the rejection then non-rejection.

   But the UN’s own Special Rapporteur Philip Alston has asked the Rajapaksa government about this — presidential brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been accused of ordering the killings — but has yet to ask the UN’s own Vijay Nambiar. Alston’s mandate expires in June. So who will investigate? Especially after Ban’s "total reject[ion of] all that kind of allegation"?


UN’s Ban and Mahinda Rajapaksa, united- in "total rejection of allegations"

After Ban announced his intention to name a group of experts "without delay," the Rajapaksa government protested, including seeking and obtaining — albeit in a late, "non-objection" portion of a NAM meeting in New York — a letter from the Non Aligned Movement that told Ban he had no jurisdiction over human rights.

While some Ban advisors have said they disagree with the NAM letter’s logic, the Ban Administration never publicly rebutted the reasoning. And now eighty days have passed without Ban naming even the group of experts.

On Monday, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban why he has delayed these eighty days to pass. With Ban slated to meet with Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs G.L. Peiris later on May 24, he said that the delay was "not based on pressure of Sri Lanka."

  Reading from notes, Ban said he would discuss "accountability.. reconciliation… and improving the conditions" for people, nearly entirely Tamils, in the UN-funded camps. Ban and his advisors should know the G.L. Peiris has publicly refused to provide any timeline for resettling the people still in the camps, and he said that Ban should not even name his group of experts. Some ask where does Ban Ki-moon stands, does he reject or not remember rejecting?

Footnote: Inner City Press, which covered Ban’s trip to Sri Lanka last May and has asked follow up questions at the UN since, had its request to Sri Lanka’s Mission to pose questions to Minister Peiris ignored and thus denied. It was sent to Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona, a former UN staffer, but was not responded to. A Mission staffer said arrangements, including invitations to journalists who have never written about or been to Sri Lanka, were coordinated by Kohona’s Deputy, who now sends Inner City Press repetitive and abusive e-mailed every day before the UN noon briefing. 

[Full Coverage]

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