UNITED NATIONS, November 1 — When Sri Lanka appeared Thursday for its Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, countries that asked to speak were given 72 seconds each.

Defenders of Sri Lanka included Belarus, North Korea, Iran and Turkey — this last on the theory that it takes toughness to fight terrorism.

But killing 40,000 civilians? That’s the figure cited by the UN, most recently by the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns when Inner City Press asked him last week about his action on videos depicting executions of prisoners by the Sri Lankan military.

During the speed-speeches there are contradictions and ironies everywhere. Qatar, which so loudly calls for accountability in Syria, didn’t bring it up on Sri Lanka.

Sudan said it sympathizes with Sri Lanka on armed conflict. But Sudanese president Omar al Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court for Darfur. The Security Council never official met on, much less about an ICC referral, about Sri Lanka.

The most vehement defense of Sri Lanka came from Belarus, which called High Commissioner Navi Pillay’s work “unbalanced.” Sri Lanka intervened to say it has invited Pillay to visit. Why has she not yet gone?

The United States, which is known to have pushed to limit Pillay to one term, then got Ban Ki-moon to cut her second term in half, had its Geneva Ambassador Eileen Donahoe cite the need for freedom of expression and judicial independence, citing the day’s move to impeach the country’s chief judge.

But Donahoe seemed to rely to the Rajapaksa’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, under which not a single military official has been indicted, much less imprisoned.

Instead in a move that literally says it all, military official Shavendra Silva, whose division is depicted in the UN’s own report as engaged in war crimes, was sent to the UN in New York as Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative. The US issued a letter that Silva is covered by immunity.

Then, emboldened, Sri Lanka got Shavendra Silva placed on Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations.

Despite some grumbling, he has not been removed from the SAG, and Ban’s spokespeople have refused to confirm to Inner City Press that Silva’s name will not be on the SAG report.

The Sri Lanka delegation claimed to be protecting the rights of internally displaced people. But when Inner City Press last week asked the UN system’s Special Rapporteur on IDPs, he said he had concerns and analogized Sri Lanka to Cote d’Ivoire, where IDPs have been killed.

Near the end of the speeches — the report will be prepared by India, Spain and Benin by November 5 — Switzerland called on Sri Lanka to follow up on the UN Panel of Experts recommendations.

But some say Ban Ki-moon himself has not followed up.

Where, for example, is the report into the UN’s own actions and inactions during the final stages of the conflict, which was assigned to Thoraya Obaid and then quietly not done, then re-assigned to Charles Petrie who now works in Myanmar?

Inner City Press has asked, repeatedly, about the report. The UN won’t even say it will be public.

By Matthew Russell Lee

Courtesy- INNER CITY PRESS

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