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On Sri Lanka, UN Did Not Recuse Nambiar, UK Supports Ban Panel, Peiris Waits

[Inner City Press, Friday, 28 May 2010 08:41 One Comment]

As questions mount about the role in crimes of war in Sri Lanka of both Vijay Nambiar, the chef de cabinet of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and Sri Lankan diplomat Palitha Kohona, the UN on Wednesday said that in setting up the long promised UN group of experts, "it’s not as if it’s simply the Chef de Cabinet. And it’s not something that involves directly — the setting up of that panel clearly does not directly involve the Sri Lankan Mission itself."

But when Inner City Press earlier asked what steps had been taken toward actually setting up the group of experts that Ban announced back on March 5, the answer was a meeting between Nambiar and Kohona. Asked if there are any UN provision for recusal from setting up a panel to investigate deadly incidents by those involved or witness to the events, the UN spokesman did not describe any safeguards.

Meanwhile, the UK Mission has provided the following read out that Inner City Press requested:

I asked the Ambassador for some feedback on his meeting with the Secretary-General regarding the issue of Sri Lanka which you had mentioned to him when you saw him earlier in the week.

He did raise the issue of Sri Lanka in his discussion with the Secretary General and assured him that the UK Government fully supported his proposals for an accountability process to look into allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law and this included the proposed panel of experts.

Inner City Press had asked Ambassador Lyall Grant if there was any change in position on Sri Lanka as power shifted from Gordon Brown and his Foreign Secretary David Miliband to Cameron, Clegg and Hague. Miliband, now running to replaced Gordon Brown as head of the Labour Party, has Tweeted that the new government should act on the International Crisis Group report. We’ll see.

  Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs G.L. Peiris continues his war crimes defense tour, now in Washington waiting to meet with Hillary Clinton on Friday. Since the Sri Lankan Mission’s read out of his meeting with Ban cited US Ambassador Susan Rice as supporting the Rajapaksas’ mechanism over any outside one, what Hillary Clinton will say is a matter of some interest.

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UK’s Lyall Grant and US’ Susan Rice, UN Sri Lanka panel positions not shown
From the UN’s May 26 transcript, video here from Minute 12:40

Inner City Press: yesterday you repeatedly said to me, “check, listen to Al Jazeera” on the question I was asking about what the Secretary-General — what, you know, what he rejected and what Mr. Nambiar, that the allegation that he said he totally rejected. So, I did, I did, it wasn’t easy, but I’ve listened to what Mr. Nambiar said. And I have to say it still gives rise to questions. There are two, and I’ll just, there are two that really come to mind. He acknowledges that he was contacted, he says through UN Headquarters by a Sunday Times correspondent, through the UK Foreign Office and UN Headquarters of the desire to surrender of these LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] leaders. And he says he spoke with the President, the Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, and Palitha Kohona, who is now the ambassador here, and that they said that they would be treated like normal war criminals. I mean, excuse me, they will be treated like normal prisoners of war – I want to be clear on that. He doesn’t say how this was conveyed back to the people who surrendered. He doesn’t say, and I think it would be important to know who in the UN Headquarters was part of this chain of communication and it’s unclear to me why, given both Mr. Nambiar and Mr. Kohona were the ones discussing the accountability panel that Ban Ki-moon is setting up if they, at least, you know, again without casting aspersion on them, there are factual questions about a possible problem, that Philip Alston is looking into. So, how is it not a conflict of interest to have Mr. Nambiar or Mr. Kohona being the ones to discuss the composition in terms of reference of a panel that is dealing with exactly the incident in which they were involved by Nambiar’s own statement to Al Jazeera? Sorry.

Spokesperson: What do you mean, “sorry”?

Inner City Press: No I’m sorry to put those all together; I just wanted it sort of a package question.

Spokesperson: It’s okay, it’s okay. Firstly, there are a lot of very specific questions that I do not have the answer to. So I can seek those to the best of my ability and the ability of my colleagues. The second is that the panel of experts that’s being put together, this is not simply in the purview of the Chef de Cabinet. Of course, there are other people involved in this, and not least the Secretary-General because it is the Secretary-General’s panel of experts. So it’s not as if it’s simply the Chef de Cabinet. And it’s not something that involves directly — the setting up of that panel clearly does not directly involve the Sri Lankan Mission itself. This is the Secretary-General’s panel of experts.

Inner City Press: Are there any provisions for sort of recusal? In the case of, sort of, at any type of UN inquiry, if — and again, I’m trying to be very careful here, I am not trying to say that — I am just saying that this is an incident that would fall within the purview even of the lessons learned in the reconciliation commission of Sri Lanka, this incident that Alston has asked about in which prisoners who surrendered with white flags ended up dead. If, as Mr. Nambiar — I had never heard of Mr. Kohona being involved and giving the assurances — but if he is, it just seems that there should be some, you see, this is the type of thing that, for example, [Luis Moreno] Ocampo [Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court] has criticized Sudan for — allowing those accused of crimes to be involved in Sudan’s own inquiry. He said that’s laughable. But it seems here, and I don’t want to be, it’s a, there obviously, it’s apples and oranges, but just in terms of involvement in the incident to be looked at, and involvement in setting up the inquiry to do it, I just wonder if you are… comfortable…

[Full Coverage]

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One Comment »

  • tamilite said:

    Shame on the UN for not pursuing this matter to its fullest. It is clear Sri-Lanka is guilty of warcrimes.