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As Human Rights Groups Boycott Sri Lanka Panel, UN Ban’s Panel Invisible

[Inner City Press, Sunday, 17 October 2010 06:54 No Comment]

The UN under Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is slow in answering questions, particularly glaringly when it comes to Sri Lanka. On the morning of October 14, Inner City Press put three simple questions to Ban’s spokesperson Martin Nesirky, asking for answers by the end of the noon briefing. None were provided until a full 24 hours after that, and even then, the answers were evasive.

Since so little has been said about it of late, Inner City Press asked how the members of Ban’s panel of experts of accountability for the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka are compensated, and why they have no spokesperson, unlike Ban’s under three member panel on the referendum in South Sudan, from which Inner City Press just returned.

Twenty four hours after deadline, Nesirky responded that “These are two different panels, one of which is advisory and reports to the Secretary-General. The Spokesperson’s office is in contact with the Sri Lanka panel and will put out any messages that they would like to convey…. The advisory panel on Sri Lanka, as we have made clear in the past, is paid out of the regular budget, under ‘unforeseen expenses.’” But how much are they paid? And what are they going?

Inner City Press also asked

On Sri Lanka’s own panel, given the UN Secretariat’s and Secretary General’s comments on it, please comment on the just announced refusal of HRW, Amnesty Int’l and ICG to participate since “the commission would not operate independently because its members were appointed by the government; moreover, the body had no real mandate to probe alleged war crimes reported in the last stages of the war. The commission also lacks any mechanism to protect witnesses and falls short of minimum international standards of a commission of inquiry.”

Nesirky delayed 24 hours, and replied that “this was answered at the noon briefing today.” Here’s how:

“we’re talking about a Sri Lankan commission, and that’s a matter for Sri Lanka. So I am not going to comment on whether individual or non-governmental organizations are cooperating with this commission or not. What I can tell you is that the Secretary-General has his Panel of Experts, which is there to advise him on accountability in Sri Lanka. And that derives, as you know, from the agreement that was reached between the Sri Lankan President and the Secretary-General when he last visited… The Panel, the Secretary-General’s Panel, is to advise him. It is not linked to the national commission that you have just referred to. So whatever the national commission is doing, and whatever interplay there is between the non-governmental organizations that you are aware of, whatever that interplay is, is nothing to do with the Panel, which is set up to advise the Secretary-General. What I can say, of course, is that the Panel has made clear that its expertise is available to the Sri Lankan authorities if they request it. Their expertise is available if the Sri Lankan authorities request it.”

But the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa is highly unlikely to request any outside help or review.

Ban and Rajapaksa, tete a tete and human rights not shown

   Inner City Press also asked Nesirky “does the Secretary General agree with and will he now allowed to stand this:

‘Attorney General Mohan Peiris has said that the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had expressed his satisfaction on the situation in Sri Lanka. Peiris had made this comment during a meeting with the Chief Incumbent of the Getambe Rajopawanarama Temple in Peradeniya, Ven. Keppitiyagoda Siriwimala Thero. Peiris had also said the UN Secretary General was pleased with the activities of President Mahinda Rajapaksa for creating a peaceful environment in the country. The Attorney General had added that the international community was pleased with the steps taken by President Rajapaksa to end the war in the country and to bring permanent peace.’

Did Mr. Ban say these things? When? If not, will he let this stand?  I am requesting response to these questions by email before the conclusion of the noon briefing, four hours from now.

Nesirky responded: “We have put out our own readout of the meeting with the President of Sri Lanka and stand by that readout. We do not as a general rule comment on the descriptions of meetings provided by Member States."

[Full Coverage]

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