UN ‘war crimes witness’ expelled - report

[TamilNet, Saturday, 12 September 2009, 12:28 GMT]
A senior UN diplomat was expelled from Sri Lanka in July for providing details to the international community of mass killings of civilians during the final battles against the Tamil Tigers, The Guardian newspaper in Britain reported Saturday. Peter Mackay, an Australian citizen, was given two weeks to leave the country for providing detailed rebuttals of Sri Lankan government’s "wartime propaganda." The diplomat is seen as a legal timebomb by the Sri Lankan government as he could personally take the stand and testify that the army shelled non-combatants – action considered to be a war crime under international law, the paper said.

News of Mackay’s expulsion comes days after the UN chief, Ban Ki-Moon, denounced Sri Lanka's decision to expel Unicef's communications officer, James Elder, spoken out on child casualties and malnutrition rates during the fighting.

Elder, like Mackay, has criticised the inadequate provisions for war refugees once the battles were over.

“Mackay, a field operative who worked for Unops – the technical arm of the UN – was a less familiar face to the media. But he played a key role in keeping the outside world informed about the number of civilians killed in the final months of the war – deaths that Sri Lanka was keen to play down,” The Guardian reported.

Mackay collected high-resolution satellite images showing that the number of people trapped on beaches where the Tigers made their last stand was far higher than that claimed by the government.

The data showed that not only were more people in danger than the government admitted, but that the food and medicine sent to the "no fire zone" were inadequate.

Mackay was also in touch with local staff and put together briefings, using eyewitness reports of the war, which led the UN to warn of a "bloodbath" in the final weeks of fighting.

Mackay's experience and knowledge of LTTE-held territory made him the ideal UN candidate to record how the war was being fought, the paper said.

“He was stranded behind Tamil Tiger lines on a mission to rescue 100 local staff and their families and was repeatedly bombed for 10 days in January, despite desperate calls to army commanders by his superiors imploring them to stop firing,” the paper reported.

His presence, however, attracted the attention of Sri Lanka's military. In a letter sent in late July, the authorities gave him two weeks to pack up, saying that his "adverse activities had come to the notice of the intelligence services".

A senior UN source confirmed that Mackay had been asked to leave, adding that "the issue was taken up through diplomatic channels with the government, but their decision remained unchanged".


Related Articles:
30.04.09   Satellite images reveal SLA shelling damages to Safe Zone
24.04.09   Civilian casualties top 20,000 in Vanni: Leaked UN document


External Links:
Guardian: Sri Lankan government evicted UN diplomat during Tamil Tiger endgame

 

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