Ban under fire for silence in Shavendra’s UN appointment
While Navi Pillay, U.N.’s chief of human rights, advised U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon earlier this month to seek the removal of a former Sri Lankan officer, Shavendra Silva, from a top peacekeeping advisory committee for alleged complicity in war-crimes, other rights groups blasted Ban for the silence on the controversial appointment. Philippe Bolopion, the U.N. representative for Human Rights Watch, said "[t]he responsibility for this puzzling appointment lays squarely with the Asia Group, but ultimately Ban Ki-moon established the panel and has to safeguard the reputation and credibility of the United Nations."
Martin Nesirky, Ban’s chief spokesman, told reporters in a recent press briefing that Ban had no authority to reverse the appointment. "The selection of the members of the group is beyond the secretary general’s purview," Nesirky said. "It’s a matter for member states."
Professor Boyle, an expert in International Law, debunked this excuse in an earlier note to TamilNet, where he said, "Ban to appoint a presumptive war criminal to his Staff would be ultra vires his powers under the terms of article 101(3) and thus a violation of the Charter itself."
Human Rights Watch also countered Nesirky saying that, while the U.N.’s Asian governments are to blame for the appointment, the U.N. chief bears responsibility for fixing it.
Meanwhile, Inner City Press (ICP), which has been pressing the U.N. officials a clear statement on the status of Shavendra Silva’s appointment for the last three weeks, obtained the following response from the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice:
- "it’s very concerning that someone with his [Shavendra Silva's] background would be selected to serve on this advisory group. We have conveyed this to member states, as well as to the Secretariat. There are a lot of efforts underway to address [this], probably best not to be discussed publicly."
The Foreign Policy (FP) Magazine pointed out that Silva commanded Sri Lanka’s 58th division, which was directly involved in the final push to crush the LTTE. The panel does not specifically accuse Silva of engaging in atrocities, but it raises concern about the conduct of his troops, the FP said.
"It is thus a reasonable conclusion that there is, at the very least, the appearance of a case of international crimes to answer by Mr. Silva," FP said quoting Navi Pillay. "I would this strongly encourage you and senior colleagues to convey as a matter of urgency the organization’s request to the Asian Group that this nomination be reviewed…. Should diplomatic engagement fail to bear fruit, further steps may need to be considered," Pillay said according to FP.
Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UN, who himself has war crimes charges filed against him in the International Criminal Court, covered for his deputy Silva, saying that his government has formed a committee to investigate allegations of human rights abuses detailed by a Sri Lankan lessons learned panel. "They will investigate every single allegation highlighted in the lessons learned report," said Kohona.