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On Sri Lanka, Ban has not asked UN General Assembly to act

by Matthew Russell Lee
Inner City Press

(April 29, New York City, Sri Lanka Guardian) Three days after belatedly releasing the UN Panel of Experts report on Sri Lanka, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has not asked either the Security Council or the General Assembly to take any action to investigate the war crimes detailed in the report.

Nor does he have any comment on the shutdown of an Internet publication critical of the Rajapaksa government.

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.

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.

Ban takes Qs April 26, Sri Lanka not shown in UN caption

Nor does the Secretariat have any comment on the shutdown of Lanka E-news. Inner City Press asked Ban's acting deputy spokesman Farhan Haq:

Inner City Press: since the publication of the Panel of Experts report there has been… the Lanka e-News, an opposition or non-Government-controlled media there has been ordered shut. There are also these calls for protests on 1 May by Minister [Wimal] Weerawansa and others. What would you have to say to Sri Lankan Government ministers planning protests at UN premises on 1 May?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson Haq: Well, first of all, regarding these reports, we would need to check on that. But, of course, we want to make sure that all media are able to exercise, to go about their work freely, as in all countries. Secondly, regarding the 1 May demonstrations, in light of the demonstrations that took place in July, it would be unacceptable if the authorities failed to prevent any disruption of the normal functioning of the UN offices in Sri Lanka as a result of unruly protests. As the host country, the Government has responsibilities towards UN personnel and assets, so as to ensure the continuation of the vital work of the Organization without any hindrance or threats to the security of its personnel or facilities. And we have reminded the Government of its responsibility and trust that this will be done.

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