Monday, June 12, 2017

After Sri Lanka Rapes in Haiti, Guterres Meets Ranil Without Peacekeeping Chief Lacroix

By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, June 5 – The UN did little during the killing of Tamils in Sri Lanka in 2009. Then under Ban Ki-moon, the UN even accepted a military leader implicated in the mass killing, Shavendra Silva, as a Senior UN Adviser on Peacekeeping. Inner City Presspursued the question and asked Ban why he did it; later Ban had Inner City Press evicted from the UN, where restrictions remain still. Now after an expose of Sri Lankan "peacekeepers" rapes in Haiti, when Ban's successor Antonio Guterres on June 5 meet Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe he did not have with him the UN Peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix, nor Lacroix' deputy or anyone from DPKO. So can the UN even pretend it is taking the peacekeepers' rapes issue, or wider accountability issues, seriously? On May 26, Inner City Press asked the UN, transcript here: Inner City Press:  I've heard that at the Office of the [United Nations] High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), that they had an assigned staffer that was vetting Sri Lankans being deployed, for example, to Mali and other missions where they're being taken by the UN and that that person has recently been reassigned such that there is no staff member handling this.  I'm wondering, is the policy that you read out today, is this a response to the AP story?  How does it relate to actually reassigning the person who had been, until recently, in charge of vetting soldiers?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, no, this is not a response.  This is the policy that we've had in place because of the exceptional needs in terms of how we deal with peacekeeping contributions from Sri Lanka.  Obviously, there's a self-certification process that’s standard for troops and police contributions by Member States.  And in that, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to tailor their approach and put in place mitigating measures as needed.  With Sri Lanka, the measures are as I've been spelling out just now.

Question:  So when they sent Shavendra Silva, a well-known military commander, this same country sent him as a senior adviser on peacekeeping, would it have passed this policy if they'd said that he didn't commit any crimes?

Deputy Spokesman:  Obviously, like I said, you know, any… the content of any policy, you know, of any review or investigation, needs to be done in a precise manner.  We are not the ones who nominated Mr. Silva.  You would have to ask the Government of Sri Lanka why they nominated him.
  On March 30, laundered by Ban Ki-moon and the UN, Shavendra Silva has been named Adjutant General of the Sri Lankan Army, photos here. On April 3, Inner City Press asked the UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric who served Ban Ki-moon and now Antonio Guterres about Silva, UN transcript here
Inner City Press: in Sri Lanka, there's a military figure called Shavendra Silva that you may remember.  He was appointed as a senior…

Spokesman:  Yes.  Yeah, I know who he was.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  So, there was some controversy, and he ended up… even the UN Secretariat seemed to acknowledge that there was a controversy under Ms. Frechette.  He's recently been named the chief administrative officer of the Sri Lankan military.  So, I wanted to know, one, if you have a comment, but, two, how this may relate to the vetting of Sri Lankan peacekeepers, which I've asked about in writing, being deployed to UN peacekeeping missions.  Is the military…?

Spokesman:  I think the… I… the vetting of peacekeepers will remain the same along our procedures.  And I have no specific comment on him.

It is an outrage - but one in which the UN has played a shameful part. (There was also Shavendra Silva as a speaker at a "UN screening" of a war crimes denial film, here.) Not only does the UN remain silent on human rights abuses like this year in Cameroon: it actively launders war criminals, and remains silent when they get promotions, accepts their troops as peacekeepers. Last week Inner City Press formally asked the UN Spokesman to describe the UN's vetting and due diligence of the Sri Lanka military figures it is deploying to peacekeeping missions, without response. We'll have more on this.

Now that Sri Lankan president Sirisena has said, No foreign judges, Inner City Press on March 3 asked Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for Ban Ki-moon and now Antonio Guterres, for the new Secretary General's reaction. Video hereUN transcript here: 
Inner City Press: the President of Sri Lanka, Mr. Sirisena, has said in Sri Lanka that there will be no foreign judges, no hybrid court.  I know this was an issue that the former Secretary-General had kind of a personal interest in, this idea of following up on the 2009 events.  What's the response of the UN system to essentially a flat “no” by the President?

Spokesman:  The situation remains one that we're following.  I think I would encourage you to ask the human rights… our colleagues in the Human Rights Office who are on the lead on this issue.
  (Of course, the spokesman of the UN Human Rights Office, Rupert Colville, has refused to answer written questions from Inner City Press.)
  The UN, which half-admitted systemic failure under Ban Ki-moon while tens of thousands of Tamils were killed in Sri Lanka, has been supporting something called the National Authority for Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses.
  But now that the body has been shown to include, among others, a person accused by the UN's own Special Rapporteur of torture, what does the UN do? Nothing, it seems.
  The issue was raised again on February 20 in the 66th Session of Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Video here. This came, as it happens, hours after the son in law of just-left UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Siddharth Chatterjee, dodged again on his connection to alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka. He wrote: "The fact is that I arrived in Sri Lanka having cut short a specialized combat under water diving course with the Indian Navy on October 16, 1987. The raid at Jaffna University took place on 12 October 1987." But it was after the failed October 12 raid - and after Chatterjee's now specified October 16 arrival - that the alleged reprisals took place. We'll have more on this, including in light of the new human rights self-attestation promulgated in the UN.
 On February 14, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about it. He had no answer, and later in the briefing, regarding Ban Ki-moon who has had two relatives indicted for real estate fraud involving the UN, called Inner City Press "obsessive" then an a*hole. 
(This same Haq in 2016 cut off Press questions about a protest in Jaffna of Ban Ki-moon's unilateral eviction from the UN of Inner City Press, where it remains restricted as  "non-resident correspondent.")
  Here's from the February 14 UN transcript, on Sri Lanka:
Inner City Press: I want to ask you about Sri Lanka, and I'll say why.  There's a report out by the International Truth and Justice Project run by Yasmin Sooka, who was one of the named panellists.  And they've basically said that there's a Sri Lankan body called the National Authority for Victim and Witness Protection, and they've named a member of the body, put on by the Government, who's named in a UN report as having been accused of torture by a Special Rapporteur on Torture.  And the reason I'm asking is the UN is apparently providing financial support to this National Authority for Victim and Witness Protection.  There's a… a… they've… they've hired a management consultant.  And I wanted to know, is the UN, given its previous role in Sri Lanka, aware that it's financially supporting a body that has, in fact, torturers on it?  And, if so, what happens to the financial support?

Deputy Spokesman:  We'd have to check and see what sort of financial support is being provided.  I'm not aware of what support is given to this group and whether that would need to be conditioned on any particular set of circumstances.  
  Haq, after calling Inner City Press an obsessive a*hole, left his office hours later having provided no answer. Here is the report, and here a sample UN system recruitment, showing support. 

40,000 dead Tamils, UN failure? Get over it.