Panel’s report ‘cannot erase the stain on the UN’

[TamilNet, Sunday, 17 April 2011, 15:10 GMT]
The damning UN report on Sri Lanka’s mass killings of Tamil civilians in 2009 submitted last week to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon by a panel he appointed last year, “cannot erase the stain on the UN over its silence” during the bloodletting, The Times newspaper’s writer who first comprehensively reported on the violence said in a comment Friday. Catherine Philp recalling UN officials saying how the Ban’s chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, had ordered UN staff in Colombo to cover up the mass casualties being inflicted on Tamil civilians by Sri Lankan forces in 2009, so as not to “rock the boat” by criticising the Sri Lankan Government during its onslaught.

Satish Nambiar, paid military consultant to Colombo
Satish Nambiar, paid military consultant to Colombo
Vijay Nambiar, Chief of Staff of Ban Ki Moon
Vijay Nambiar, Chief of Staff of Ban Ki Moon
Mr Nambiar's brother, Satish, was later revealed to be working as a paid consultant to the Sri Lankan military, Ms. Philp pointed out.

The full text of Philp's article follows:

This cannot erase the stain on the UN over its silence

Sri Lanka will come under renewed pressure to submit to an international war crimes investigation with the publication today of a highly critical UN report into the bloody end of its civil war.

The report is expected to back evidence, first published by The Times, that shelling by government forces was responsible for most of the civilian deaths. At least 20,000 civilians died in the final five months of the military campaign to crush the Tamil Tigers.

Human rights groups have documented atrocities on both sides of the conflict, which ended in May 2009, including the use of human shields and child soldiers by the rebels. But the deliberate shelling and denial of humanitarian relief to civilians inside a government-established no-fire zone are held to blame for the bulk of the casualties.

Sri Lanka has refused to allow any independent investigation into the conflict, which took place in the remote northeast, where outside observers and journalists were banned. It has also failed to investigate or hold anyone accountable for the deaths, prompting calls for an outside inquiry.

Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General established a panel of experts last year to assess possible war crimes after mounting pressure from human rights groups and Western governments who accused the UN of trying to whitewash war crimes allegations.

UN officials told The Times that Mr Ban’s chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, had been told that the final death toll would likely exceed 20,000 but urged his staff not to “rock the boat” by criticising the Sri Lankan Government. Mr Nambiar’s brother, Satish, was later revealed to be working as a paid consultant to the Sri Lankan military.

The UN panel, led by Marzuki Darusman, the former Indonesian Attorney-General, was refused entry to carry out its investigation. Instead, it collected photographs, video footage and sworn testimony detailing specific claims against named military personnel.

The Sri Lankan Government, which received the report after it was submitted to the UN Secretary-General on Tuesday, rejected it as “fundamentally flawed”. The Foreign Ministry said: “Among other deficiencies the report is based on patently biased material which is presented without any verification.” Western diplomats said that the report would call for further UN-led action, setting up a diplomatic showdown between Colombo and nations such as Britain and the US, which passed a resolution last month calling for an international war crimes inquiry.

Mr Ban may choose to order an investigation by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights or an ad-hoc UN body. Diplomats said Sri Lanka was unlikely to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) because of opposition from allies such as China.

The timing of the report is sensitive, coming while Nato is engaged in airstrikes in Libya. Before the Libya resolution, the Security Council agreed to refer the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, to the ICC for alleged war crimes.

Sarath Fonseka, the general who led the campaign against the Tigers, is in jail on corruption charges. He claimed that the President’s brother and Defence Secretary ordered the execution of key rebels who tried to surrender.


Chronology:


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