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With Sri Lanka Government Snubbing UN, “Foreign Policy Response” Emerges

[Inner City Press, Sunday, 1 May 2011 09:59 No Comment]

Four days after the UN belatedly released its Panel of Experts’ report on war crimes in Sri Lanka, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky was asked if any response had been received from the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa. No, Nesirky said.

In that vein, Inner City Press is today putting online a document on Sri Lanka “Foreign Policy Responses to the UNSG Report.” Click here to view.  After a lengthy exegesis of international law, the document analyzes the past, current and prospective responses of Russia, China, India, the Non-Aligned Movement and others.

The document positions India as between East and West, being asked to “side with the West” and demand action on the Report. Since the document’s production, India has publicly taken a position at odds with the West on Syria, joining Bashar al Assad in alleging the presence of “armed extremists” among the demonstrators.

The documents expresses concern, for the Sri Lankan government, that Russia might remain non-committal as it did on Libya, merely abstaining on a resolution allowing air strikes on Gaddafi’s forces. Since the document’s production, Russia has come out strongly to block any investigation of the Rajapaksa government, even saying it was opposed to publication of the Report.

  Of the Non-Aligned Movement, in the name of which Egypt has previously written to Ban Ki-moon urging him to "lay off" Rajapaksa, the documents notes that recent changes in Egypt might change this.

The document suggests that the Government of Sri Lanka “use Panel Report as a political issue to tap into patriotic sentiment and use this as political capital for upcoming elections.”

Similarly, the document suggests — correctly, it seems — that Ban Ki-moon is most concerned with getting re-elected to a second term as Secretary General. With Russia and China against action on the report, and the Western Permanent Three less vocal in calling for action, the fix may be in.

  First, Inner City Press first asked outgoing Security Council president Nestor Osorio of Colombia if Ban had asked the Council to take the issue up. No, Osorio said, we just took note of it, it was routine.

Then on April 28, Inner City Press posed the same question to the spokesman for General Assembly President Joseph Deiss:

Inner City Press: The report came out this week, it was issued at last by the UN on presumptive war crimes in Sri Lanka, and it said that the Secretary-General should implement an international investigative mechanism. The Secretary-General has said he will only do that, he believes he… he’s advised he can only do that if there is a vote, either Sri Lanka agrees, which isn’t happening, or there is a vote by Member States and an intergovernmental body, one of which is the General Assembly. So, I wanted to know, has the Secretariat made any request that you are aware of whether to Deiss or to any committee or in any way to the General Assembly for that this matter be taken up, that this 200 page war crimes report be considered in the General Assembly?

PGA Spokesperson: Three things: First, I will check and come back to you if there has been such a request. Second, you certainly do not expect me to comment on statements that the Secretary-General may or may not have made. The first thing is that, indeed, the Human Rights Council is a subsidiary organ to the General Assembly, and we’ll have to wait that initial steps be taken at the level of Geneva before we can jump into that.

Inner City Press: Ban Ki-moon asked for the General Assembly to consider the credentials on Côte d’Ivoire. That was very open, it was done immediately…. maybe I have missed it, has Ban Ki-moon made any similar request for General Assembly action on this matter?

PGA Spokesperson: We are not in disagreement, but even on the question of Côte d’Ivoire, I would like to add a caveat, that it was not that immediate as — in repeating the word that you used. What happened is that it first had to go through the Credentials Committee, and then the Credentials Committee had to submit a report, and a resolution was thereafter submitted and adopted at the General Assembly. So, these things always have to follow a procedure. I know, it can be sometimes frustrating for some, but we have to abide by what is set in the procedures.

Inner City Press: I just wanted to know whether any request is, are you aware of any request to the General Assembly as Mr. Ban did in that instance, I mean, he said publicly there was a meeting on the North Lawn Building with the General Assembly, and he said “I’d like you do x”, and they did it.

Spokesperson: On that, I said, I will check and come back to you, and if you can maybe call me this afternoon, we’ll find out.

Inner City Press waited for the rest of Thursday, finally speaking with the spokesman in the General Assembly President’s office after 5 pm. He said, having checked, that the UN Secretariat has not made any such request to the General Assembly.

  Nor a full day after it was asked does the Secretariat yet have any comment on the shutdown of Lanka e-news. On April 28 Inner City Press asked Ban’s acting deputy spokesman Farhan Haq:

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