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On War Crimes, UN Ban’s Panel May Not Speak to Fonseka or Travel to Sri Lanka, Report May Be Secret

[Inner City Press, Wednesday, 23 June 2010 08:27 No Comment]

A panel on Sri Lanka war crimes has been named by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the day after Inner City Press exclusively disclosed the names of its three members — but the panel, it turns out, won’t necessarily travel to Sri Lanka or interview any witnesses.

Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky if, for example, the panel will interview Sarath Fonseka, who served as General in charge during the final stage of the conflict and who has spoken of orders to kill people who surrendered, a war crimes. Video here, from Minute 10:48.

Nesirky replied that "the mandate is such that some of the precise details, the who and how, still need to be worked out." The aim, he said, is to speak with "the concerned officials," and to finish in four months.

Which officials are more "concerned" than President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his brothers Gotabaya and Basil, and his Ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona, named by Ban’s chief of staff Vijay Nambiar as having given assurances that those who surrendered would be treated in accordance with international law — before they were killed?

   (Kohona disputes the timing of his communications with Nambiar, something that at a minimum one would expect this UN panel to inquire into and resolve.)

Inner City Press asked Nesirky, in light of the European Union’s announcement that it will only extended the GSP Plus tariff benefit if the Rajapaksa administration takes specific human rights related actions in the next six months, if the UN believes or wants one of the actions to be cooperation with the UN panel. Video here, from Minute 11:51.

Nesirky replied, we’re focusing on the work of this advisory panel. So much for coordination.

So much, too, for consistency. Murzuki Darusman served on Ban’s panel on the death of Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan. That panel’s report was released to the public. Darusman came to the UN briefing room on the day of its release, and Inner City Press asked him questions.

In this Sri Lanka case, though, Nesirky would not say if the panel’s report will be made public, nor if any of the three members will take questions from the Press.

ban1darusman
UN’s Ban and Darusman: public report for 1 death, secret for tens of thousands of deaths?

Inner City Press asked, for example, how Mr. Darusman will handle his four month Sri Lanka focus with his new other job, as special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea / DPRK.

Has Steven Ratner performed any other service for the UN, other than advising Kofi Annan about Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge in the last 1990s? Nesirky did not answer any of these. And so we’ll add a third, about the third member: is Yasmin Sooka more about reconciliation or accountability?

  Even as Nesirky announced the names, confirming what Inner City Press has asked him on the record the previous day, his Office did not have ready biographies for the three, as is the usual practice.

Later on Tuesday, after Inner City Press asked Nobel laureate and Elder Martti Ahtisaari a question, Ahtisaari said of Sri Lanka that it was sad that in the international community, no one had been prepared to do anything. Sad indeed. Watch this site.

From the UN’s transcript of its June 21, 2010 noon briefing:

Inner City Press: I want to ask on this panel on Sri Lanka, can you confirm that beyond Mr. Darusman, that the other two members are Yasmin Sooka and Steven Ratner?

[Full Coverage]

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