Govt. blasts UN chief

President goes to New York for diplomatic counter-offensive
By our Diplomatic Editor

The government has lashed out at UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for submitting, what it calls a deeply-flawed report of the UN panel on Sri Lanka, both to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the President of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The letter of protest accuses Ban of violating one of the basic protocols of diplomacy by not informing the government in advance of the submission. The move came as President Mahinda Rajapaksa leaves today to New York to attend the 66th session of the UN General Assembly. He is due to speak on Tuesday.

He is also scheduled to meet heads of state and foreign ministers to brief them on international issues related to Sri Lanka before returning to the country. An External Affairs Ministry source said Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona was instructed to send a protest letter in the strongest terms possible critical of the Secretary-General for not providing the government with the traditional courtesy extended in such circumstances.

"We are disappointed with the decision to submit the report to Geneva," he said, pointing out that even the Sri Lanka Mission to the United Nations "was kept in the dark."

He said Ban's action was extraordinary since he had publicly stated it was upto the international community to decide on the next step -- and not for the secretary-general to take a unilateral decision (which he did).

The government has also challenged the manner in which the panel of experts was appointed and deemed it illegitimate under existing law and practice because it did not have the blessings of any one of the three key organs in the United Nations: the General Assembly, the Security Council or the Human Rights Council.

A statement issued by the UN in New York last Tuesday said, "the Sri Lanka Government has been informed of the Secretary-General's decision to share the report with the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner."

But a ministry official said the Sri Lanka Mission was informed only after the report was transmitted to Geneva, not before. A spokesman for Ban said Tuesday that while the Secretary-General had given time to the Government of Sri Lanka to respond to the report, the Government had declined to do so, and instead produced its own reports on the situation in the north of Sri Lanka. These were being forwarded along with the panel of experts report. The statement also said the UN panel found credible allegations of serious violations committed by the Government, including killing of civilians through widespread shelling and the denial of humanitarian assistance.

The credible allegations regarding the LTTE concerned numerous serious violations, including using civilians as a human buffer and killing civilians attempting to flee LTTE control. The panel chaired by Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia and comprising Yasmin Sooka of South Africa and Steven Ratner of the United States recommended that the Government respond to the allegations by initiating an effective accountability process beginning with genuine investigations.

It had also recommended a review of the UN's actions regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates during the war in Sri Lanka particularly in the last stages and its aftermath.
In response to that recommendation, the Secretary-General has asked Saudi Arabia’s Thoraya Obaid, former Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), to conduct the review, which should begin soon, according to the statement.

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