In the run up to a vote on Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, there is surprising silence in New York from the sponsor, the US, and also from the UK Mission. The UN of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, attempted to erase the issue even from its transcripts until an objection from Inner City Press.
Multiple sources say that the UK Mission made clear that Sri Lankan General Shavendra Silva, depicted in Ban’s Panel of Experts report and UK Channel 4’s "Killing Fields" as engaged in war crimes, should not attend a Commonwealth reception with Foreign Secretary William J. Hague.
But when Inner City Press asked UK Permanent Mark Lyall Grant to confirm and explain it at the UN on Monday, Lyall Grant declined to answer the question:
Inner City Press: if you could, I wanted to ask you one thing, if you could just say for the record, there’s the reports that this Commonwealth event that you deemed inappropriate, the presence of the DPR of Sri Lanka, given his record in the UN’s own report. Is that the case and could you say your reason for it?
Amb. Lyall Grant: I’m not going to comment…
Likewise requests to the US Mission to the UN for comment on Silva’s continuing presence on Ban’s Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations have gone unresponded to, except for the statement that the Sri Lanka resolution is slated for a vote in Geneva on March 22, now apparently with India voting for the resolution.
When Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others, held a press conference last week, Inner City Press asked both groups about Silva and the SAG. Human Rights Watch said nothing; in the past, HRW has refused to provide even a summary of Ken Roth’s meeting with Ban, ostensibly so HRW can retain "access."
Amnesty International’s representative did provide an answer — but when the UN issued its press release, the issue was not included. Inner City Press inquired, and the official of the UN unit in charge, to his credit, reviewed the recording and had the issue re-included:
The same correspondent [from Inner City Press] also asked about the "controversy" surrounding Sri Lankan General Shavendra Silva’s appointment to the Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations. The army division that official headed up had been cited in the report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka as having committed war crimes, he said. Mr. Pomi said that while he was unable to answer specific questions about the matter, he believed that the question of vetting was very important. “There are guidelines on that and the United Nations should apply them so that perpetrators do not enter the ranks of national army,” he said.
As for the "difficult" issue of screening out persons who would serve in the United Nations ranks — in peacekeeping or in other roles — he said, "What we would like to see is coherent and consistent policy by the United Nations to vet those applying for United Nations positions, especially in peacekeeping, because they work closely with local populations and with weapons."