UN condemns CJ impeachment & admits failure to aid Lankans

November 19, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

UN report admits a “grave failure”

The repercussions from this damning report could be far reaching and long lasting for the UN.

Tamil Refugees during Sri Lanka's civil warSri Lanka, November 15, 2012: A UN report on its failure to protect civilians in Sri Lanka’s civil war will have “profound implications” for the global body, UN chief Ban Ki-moon says.

Publishing the damning internal report, which was leaked to the BBC, Mr Ban said lessons had to be learnt.

A senior panel will advise him on how to prevent the system breakdowns that led to “grave failure” in Sri Lanka.

The government and Tamil rebels are accused of war crimes in the conflict, which ended in May 2009.

The 26-year war left at least 100,000 people dead. There are still no confirmed figures for tens of thousands of civilian deaths in the last months of battle.

An earlier UN investigation said it was possible up to 40,000 people had been killed in the final five months alone. Other estimates say the number of deaths could be even higher.

The government’s own estimate of deaths in the final few months is 9,000.

The internal review concluded that various UN agencies, including the Security Council and Human Rights Council, had failed at every level to meet their responsibilities in the last months of the civil war in Sri Lanka.

In particular it highlighted the organisation’s reluctance to publish casualty figures and its decision to withdraw staff from the war zone, as well as its failure to report evidence of widespread government shelling.

As a result, the report recommends a comprehensive review of the UN’s implementation of humanitarian and protection mandates.

“I am determined that the United Nations draws the appropriate lessons and does its utmost to earn the confidence of the world’s people, especially those caught in conflict who look to the organisation for help,” Mr Ban said in a statement.

He added that events in Syria were the latest reminder that the UN’s core mission to protect civilians was crucial.

The report had been made public, Mr Ban said, as “transparency and accountability are critical to the legitimacy and credibility of the United Nations”.

The UN’s former humanitarian chief, John Holmes, has criticised the report.

Mr Holmes said the UN faced “some very difficult dilemmas” at the time and could be criticised for the decisions it had taken.

“But the idea that if we behaved differently, the Sri Lankan government would have behaved differently I think is not one that is easy to reconcile with the reality at the time,” he told the BBC’s Newshour programme earlier this week.

– bbc

UN condemns Chief Justice impeachment

Rapporteur says independent judiciary must be protected.

Protesters in Colombo rally for a more independent judiciary

Protesters in Colombo rally for a more independent judiciary

Sri Lanka, November 16, 2012: The United Nations special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers yesterday joined the growing chorus of criticism aimed at the government amid recent moves to impeach the country’s first female chief justice.

Citing political interference in the judiciary, Gabriela Knaul said that the government should “reconsider” impeaching Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake after she was deemed responsible for vetoing a bill which would have given more powers to the economics minister Basil Rajapakse, the brother of the president.

“The irremovability of judges is one of the main pillars guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary and only in exceptional circumstances may this principle be transgressed,” she said.

The Brazilian UN legal envoy also called for an end to intimidation, threats and violence against members of the judiciary in Sri Lanka who have been on the receiving end of numerous attacks in recent years, many of which have not been investigated, she added.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier this month denied interfering in the judiciary in relation to Bandaranayake’s impeachment, adding that the legislature had to look into complaints against a chief justice.

J. C. Weliamuna, a rights lawyer and former executive director of Transparency International Sri Lanka, who was himself the target of a grenade attack in 2008, said that the government’s all-encompassing grip on Sri Lanka was the main cause of efforts to undermine the judiciary.

“Judges and lawyers have been directly and indirectly intimidated and subjected to various kinds of harassment,” he said. “No judges would come forward to talk about these due to fear.”

In the attack against Weliamuna in September, 2008, one grenade exploded on the balcony of his Colombo residence without causing injury while a second did not detonate. No arrests have been made in connection with the attack.

– ucan

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