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Posted on on February 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


On Sri Lanka, Tamils “Shame Ban Ki-moon” at UN As Pillay Report Leaks.


By Matthew Russell Lee (Inner City Press) from the UN Headquarters in New York.


Photo: Tamil demonstration in front of Feb 12, 2014, they chant “shame on



UNITED NATIONS, February 15 — As the Sri Lanka resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in March grows closer, the Sunday Times has excerpted High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay’s report, see below.  Meanwhile on February 12 Tamils protested in front of the UN in New York, chanting “Ban Ki-moon, shame on you,” under the watchful eye of a Sinhalese UN Security officer known to report to the Sri Lanka mission to the UN (he asked a photograph for his photos of the protest — he refused). This is the UN.


   The same United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) which screened the Rajapaksa government’s denial of war crimes, “Lies Agreed To” complete with speech by Shavendra Silva (here recounted in Italian along with Reuters’ censorship) is set for another in its propaganda film series.


  Now, however, after UNCA tried to get Inner City Press thrown out of the UN, it is confronted by the new Free UN Coalition of Access (FUNCA), of which “the photographer who refused” is a member.



  The Sunday Times quotes Pillay:


“new evidence — including witness testimony, video and photographic material — continues to emerge on what took place in the final stages of the armed conflict. Human remains also continue to be discovered, for instance in Matale in November 2012 and Mannar in December 2013. As the emblematic cases highlighted above show, national mechanisms have consistently failed to establish the truth and achieve justice. The High Commissioner believes this can no longer be explained as a function of time or technical capacity, but that it is fundamentally a question of political will… The High Commissioner remains convinced that an independent, international inquiry would play a positive role in eliciting new information and establishing the truth where domestic inquiry mechanisms have failed. In the absence of a credible national process, she believes the international community has a duty to take further steps which will advance the right to truth for all in Sri Lanka and create further opportunities for justice, accountability and redress. The High Commissioner reiterates concern about the continuing trend of attacks on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, particularly against human rights defenders, journalists and families of victims; the rising levels of religious intolerance; and continued militarization which continues to undermine the environment where accountability and reconciliation can be achieved. She therefore reiterates and updates the recommendations made in her previous report to the Human Rights Council, most of which remain unimplemented.”


Posted on on August 2nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Irith Jawetz reports from Vienna, Austria: “The Current Nuclear Problems: Disarmament and the Humanitarian Aspects of Nuclear Weapons” – Seminar on August 2, 2013 at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP).

With the world watching these days all sort of fighting within Nations – some of which even posses nuclear weapons, and all factions being potential acquirers of nuclear material, to keep up with the most pressing and relevant topics in the field of nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and security, the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VNDNP) has instituted a monthly seminar series that includes presentations by prominent experts. Some recent speakers included: Lord Des Browne, former UK Secretary of Deffence; Mark Fitzpatrick, HSS; Dr. Diegfried Hecker, Stanford; Dr. Steven Miller, Harvard; Amb. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Princeton; Dr. Thomas Schelling, Nobel Prize winner; Amb. Tibor Toth, CTBTO; Ahmed Üzümcü, OPCW, and many others.

This month VCDNP has organized a seminar by Justice Christopher Gregory Weeramantry, titled “The Current Nuclear Problems: Disarmament and the Humanitarian Aspects of Nuclear Weapons” which was held on Friday, 2 August 2013, at 12:30 in the conference room of the VCDNP in the Andromeda building of the Austria International Center outside he UN compound gates.

Justice Weeramantry was a Judge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) when ICJ delivered an advisory opinion in 1996 about the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons. The decision provides one of the few authoritative judicial decisions concerning the legality under international law of the use or the threatened use of nuclear weapons. Judge Weeramantry’s presentation focused on the obligation under Article VI of the NPT for the nuclear-weapon States, and all other States, to pursue negotiations in good faith on ending the nuclear arms race and achieving nuclear disarmament, as well the issue of nuclear weapons in international law and their humanitarian consequences.

Justice Weeramantry delivered a powerful and compassionate speech against the use of Nuclear Weapons. He started his presentation by saying that the future of humanity depends on our generation. By being able to use nuclear weapons we are given the power to inflict more damage than any generation before us. We can impose suffering not only on us but on future generations with unimaginable physical, mental, and environmental damage. We know the effect of what we are doing. He used very harsh words for our generation describing us as “worse than the cavemen and Genghis Khan”.

When Hiroshima and Nagasaki were attacked by the nuclear bombs they could not retaliate. However, next time an attack like that happens, there will be retaliation in the form of an exchange with nuclear weapons. The damage of a nuclear catastrophe grows from day to day since the expertise is available and is for sale to the highest bidder.

The use of Nuclear weapons goes against every principal of International and humanitarian Law. In order to stop the possession and probable use of nuclear weapons people must be better educated The general public does not know the basics of International law and cannot influence the leaders.

His immediate solution is education of the youth. He has spoken and continues on his crusade to approach many young people in Sri Lanka, USA, Great Britain, Australia and other countries. We must teach the basics of International and humanitarian Law in every school in the world. He even went as far as to say that all religions abhor this kind of violence and we must show that the basic principles of religion and International Law are the same and should be respected.

During the Q & A session he answered a question relating to treaties and said no treaties are needed because the ground rule is laid in the International & Humanitarian Law. It is a rule of basic International Law that nuclear weapons should be banned.

Justice Weeramantry was accompanied by his granddaughter who is following in his steps and is an International lawyer working for the ban of nuclear weapons.

Their mission is to spread the word and let’s hope that people, and especially leaders, will listen to their lesson.


Posted on on April 24th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

After having participated at a meeting with Mr. Ronan Farrow, Director of Global Youth Issues, Special Adviser to the US Secretary of State, I just made some changes to the original article of April 22, 2012, and will eventually post separately on the US position on youth.

At the UN in New York, on Friday April 20, 2012, looking at “THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF LAW TO THE RIO+20 AGENDA” there were two panels:

I – on the theme – “National best practices in sustainable development law for the green economy.”

II – on the theme – The contributions of international treaties and tribunals to sustainable development governance.”

The event was co-organized by the Division for Sustainable Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO).

The CISDL-IDLO Legal Research Group:

The Event was chaired by Ms. Irene Khan, Director-General of IDLO, and the two opening speakers were:

Ambassador Antonio Bernardini, Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the UN – Italy being the country that supports IDLO and helped fund this event.

and Ms.Elizabeth Thompson, Assistant Secretary-General of the UN and Executive Coordinator of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development – the so called RIO+20 June 2012 event being prepared right now in meetings at the UN headquarters in New York.

Both panels had excellent and distinguished teams of speakers with track records well ahead of their present offices.


Panel I was chaired by the UN Ambassador for Mexico – Mr. Luis Alfonso Alba, and the moderator was Ms. Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, Head of Economic Growth & Trade, IDLO.

the panelists, many of them with prior involvement with Amnesty International and Human Rights, were –

Mr. Magdy Martinez-Soliman from the Bureau for Development Policy (BDP) at UNDP. spoke on “Legal Dimensions of Low-Emission Climate Resilient Development Strategies.”

Prof. Jorge Cabrera of the University of Costa Rica, specialist on Biodiversity Laws, with the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL), spoke on “Innovative Legal Rules for the Green Economy.”

Mr. Me. Sebastien Jodoin, from McGill University in Canada, now a Trudeau Scholar at Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Lead Counsel for the Climate Change Programme at CISDL, spoke on “Human Rights and Social Dimensions of the Green Economy: The Way Forward.”

Prof. Hector Velasco-Perroni, of the Instituto Technologico Autonomo de Mexico, President of  the “Colegio de Abogados por el Ambiente,” Legal Counselor of the Ministry of Environment  in Mexico, and with IDLO, spoke on “Development Laws for REDD+ Projects.”

We heard that The Sustainable Future We Want is about Human Development and Democracy via a green Economy – Green Growth must go together with inclusive development. It is the poorest of us that are most bound to natural resources and thus most hurt by natural disasters (Great idea to hold up against those that think of natural resources only as a means to make money in the short term and have no interest in the implications of their deeds for the longer term.)

KEY FOR GOVERNANCE IS THE IMPLEMENTATION OF LAW THAT SAFEGUARDS THE VULNERABLE. The idea is thus to go Green and be fair at the same time – and RIO+20 has the opportunity to bring in the Role of Law – That is Accountability.

Green Jobs can mean decent jobs for the population and we heard of case studies in Zambia, Vietnam, Mexico, Cuba, New Zealand, Costa Rica.


Panel II was chaired by The UN Ambassador  for Sri Lanka – Mr. Palitha T. B. Kohona, and the moderator was Ms. Marie-Claire Cordonier Seeger, Head of Economic Growth & Trade, IDLO.

the panelists were –

Prof. Duncan French, Professor of Law, Head of the University of Lincoln Law School, the UK. He is Rapporteur of the International Law Association (ILA) on International Law on Sustainable Development and fEllow of CISDL  He spoke on “Environment and Development in the ICJ, PCA, ITLOS.”

Prof. Sumudu Atapattu. Associate Director of the Global Legal Studies Center at the University of Wisconsin Law School. She authored “Emerging Principles of International Law” that was published by Transnational Publishers in 2006. She spoke on “Principles of Sustainable Development in Human Rights Courts and Tribunals.”

Prof. Markus Gehring. Chair in Sustainable Development Law at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, and Tutor in Sustainable Development Law at the University of Cambridge. He is lead Counsel for Trade, Investment and Financial Law at CISDL. He is with the Frankfurt Bar and served as Counsel to the International Court of Justice. He spoke on “Sustainable Development Principles in Economic Law Tribunals.”

Ambassador Kohona belongs to the ARCC group – Ambassadors for Responsibility on Climate Change.

We heard that GREEN DEVELOPMENT IS THE SAME AS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT – just a new sexy  name.  We heard about AGENDA 21, the RIO PRINCIPLES, and the RIO CONVENTIONS. A main stress was on the RIO Principles that most of them have become in the past 20 years – UN PRINCIPLES – or should.  The Original 27 Rio Principles at the 2002 New Delhi meeting, that followed the Johannsburg Summit, morphed into the 7 New Delhi Principles.
We got an interesting depiction of the 2002 New Delhi Declaration. We were told that – “The need to reconcile economic development with protection of the environment is aptly expressed in the concept of Sustainable Development.”

As a policy recommendation we were given among others – “avoid disagreements over legal status of Sustainable Development and focus on the effects.” We were given the set of 3 “P’s” of Case Law that had more the 3 “Ps” – Due Process, Substantive Principles, Prevention, Precaution, Judicial Procedure – use of natural resources …

We were told that the InterAmerican legal system has a court ruling to give part of the benefits to the indigenous people.

We found that there is a continuous struggle between Development & the Environment.


But, as interesting as these presentations were – I found that they did really not reach out far enough to touch the real problem that is failing the Sustainable Development paradigm, as it was intended at birth, of that wording.

The problem in our opinion stems from the vision that SD is a bridge to the future as it is based on the context of SUSTAINABILITY and the beneficiaries of the vision of that original Brundtland Commission effort – were the FUTURE GENERATIONS. The meeting was clearly oblivious to the needs of those unborn future humans. Clearly, nothing was said either of  non-human nature – but I will not try to reach out to this topic. Suffice to say that I learned most from this meeting by asking a question that relates to the Human Future Generations, and as we shall see got in reply clarifications that were eye-opening.

My question was the last question posed to the First Panel.

I wanted to know what the reaction of the Panel was to the effort of the drafting committee, that prepares the outcome document for RIO+20 – were in the first drafts there was the suggestion to appoint a UN High Commissioner for Future Generations like the one on Human Rights – and members of the panel  spoke highly of that function earlier.

The question was picked up by Mr. Jodoin, currently with Yale, who said that Future Generations have no standing in Law, and that the effort at the drafting effort showed that the idea had no “traction” among the member States.

The question was then repeated by somebody else and directed to the Second Panel, and eventually got also into the closing statement.


THE CLOSING was done by Dr. Maya Prabhu, an attorney and forensic psychiatrist with the Law and Psychiatry Division at Yale University School of Medicine. She is also with CISDL.


Back to Future Generations:

If every corporation is granted a persona standing in Court of Law, why not create such a PERSONA for FUTURE GENERATIONS so the term SUSTAINABILITY can get in fact the meaning every one thinks that it has?

Unless this is done I see now clearly serious fault with the concept itself, and by extension even with the concept of a GREEN ECONOMY, as without a legal persona for the Future Generations it is as if the rug was pulled from under SD itself.


Granted that the US position on youth is governed by the recognition that unemployed and uneducated youth are the explosive class that can turn to violence, so it is the interest of the United States to help governments meet the challenge by inducing them to do something positive for their young – specially for the females – our position is that FUTURE GENERATIONS is the generic that goes well beyond the immediate – and we hope to see the US take this line as well.


Posted on on September 22nd, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

‘Lies Agreed Upon,’ screens at UN today.…

[September 06 2011]

The documentary ‘Lies Agreed Upon,’ will be screened today at 2:00 pm. in the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium of the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The documentary was made in response to the Channel 4 film “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields” to counter the false allegations contained therein.

The screening of ‘Lies Agreed Upon’ at the UN Headquarters is seen as a diplomatic victory for Sri Lanka, because LTTE lobbyists and sections of the Tamil diaspora supportive of the terror group could not get “Killing Fields” screened in the UN itself despite their best efforts.


Sri Lanka’s Request to Screen “Lies Agreed To” at UN Granted by Kohona’s Ex-Landlord.

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 21 — At the UN some countries and state-funded media try to use access and even “ethics” as a club, with Sri Lanka the most recent example.

Earlier this month a Sri Lankan government video was shown inside the UN in the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium, described as a rebuttal the UK Channel 4 documentary “Killing Fields,” which despite a request was not shown inside the UN.

At the front after the September 6 screening sat Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona and the President of the UN Correspondents’ Association Giampaolo Pioli, who asked Kohona if the Tamil Tiger rebels were not akin to the Red Brigades in Pioli’s native Italy.

Whereas repeatedly throughout the summer proposals for movie screenings and briefings in the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium were e-mailed for consideration and debate by members of UNCA’s executive committee, including this reporter, in the case of Kohona’s Sri Lanka Mission’s request to screen “Lies Agreed To,” this was not done. The decision was made by Pioli.

The screening in the UN was described as a big victory for Kohona and the Rajapaskas, in Sri Lanka’s “largest English language newspaper,” here.

But undisclosed at the time was that Pioli collected money as rent from Kohona for years. When this obvious conflict of interest was raised, the response was that the monetary relationship began when Kohona was a UN staff member. But in a sense that’s worse: how can a reporter ostensibly covering the UN objectively have a monetary relation with a senior UN official?

In all of New York, Pioli couldn’t find a tenant he didn’t purportedly cover as a journalist for “QUOTIDIANO NAZIONALE / LA NAZIONE / Il Resto del Carlino / IL GIORNO, Poligrafici Editoriale S.p.A.” among those he lists working for?

Now on September 21, after Pioli among other things came to Inner City Press’ office demanding to know Inner City Press’ sources, UNCA sent out a vague statement purporting to tell journalists how to prepare news reports.

While it was raised that it is hardly the UN Correspondents’ Association’s job to tell journalists what to publish, it was not allowed to attach a dissent to this effect to the statement.

Pioli has sought to retroactively put things off the record, but said things that are public, like that, can of course be published. Going forward, Inner City Press has counter proposed a number of other ethical reminders, including:

UNCA reminds UN correspondents that disclosure of possible conflicts of interest, particularly the receipt of money whether present or past, is proper when making decisions that impact UNCA and its credibility.

Pioli has said it’s not the time to vote on that, even as he openly hands gifts to UN officials. Ethics? So it goes at the UN.

Silva, Pioli & Kohona at UN, payment of money not shown, “Lies Agreed To”

Simply – propaganda, money, and journalism at the UN make an explosive mixture.


Before Pioli’s many years, with a one year pause before he got elected,  there was another long ruling UNCA President who hailed from Pakistan and who in cahoots with the Egyptian DPI official just made sure that Palestine is on top of a UN chase after Israel. We felt later that Italian leftist Pioli made this his business as well. So, there may be more to this mountain of UN ice – interesting it comes out these days.


Posted on on September 22nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Hey there, Pincas:

Are you fed up with political leaders who’ve failed again and again and again to put us on a path toward climate sanity? Clearly, it’s time to take matters into our own hands — literally.

That’s the idea behind the Global Work Party being organized by On 10/10/10, people all around the world will gather in their communities to get things done. Politicians are invited to come and take notes.

Bill and ChipIn Hailey, Idaho, people are getting together for a home weatherization raffle and demonstration. In Auckland, New Zealand, they’re organizing a giant bike fix-up day. In Ambalantota, Sri Lanka, they’ll be planting hundreds of trees. In the Maldives, they’ll be putting solar panels on the president’s office. Find out what’s going on in your neck of the woods, or organize a work event yourself. With the might of our combined efforts, we’ll be sending a message to our leaders: We’re doing our part. Now get to work and do yours.

Join us in a live chat on Grist to find out more about the Global Work Party and the climate crisis that inspired it — today, Sept. 22, at noon Pacific time (3 p.m. Eastern).

Yours in working and partying,

Bill McKibben, author, activist, & Grist board member
Chip Giller, Grist founder & president


Posted on on July 13th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

from CPA <>
date Tue, Jul 13, 2010
subject:   WMO launches SWIdget: get severe weather warnings on tropical cyclones on your computer.

The Severe Weather Information Centre (SWIC) of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has been enhanced with the launch of a new service known as SWIdget.  With this brand new service, local and international users can now obtain severe weather warnings related to tropical cyclones that are issued by participating official weather services in near real-time.  This new service aims to help users access severe weather warnings easily so that they can take suitable precautionary measures well in time.

Please find attached a press release on the above subject.
(Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish and Russian versions will be available online soon).

More information:

Communications and Public Affairs
Communication et relations publiques
World Meteorological Organization
Organisation météorologique mondiale
Tel: + 41 22 730 83 14
Fax: + 41 22 730 80 27
7 bis Avenue de la Paix
Case Postale 2300
CH 1211 Geneva 2


Posted on on July 7th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Rio+20 Summit Preview Article: Another Earth Summit on Sustainable Development in 2012: Leading or Misleading the World through a Green Economy? by Uchita de Zoysa

from: Uchita de Zoysa <>
date: Mon, Jul 5, 2010
subject: Rio+20 Summit Preview Article: Another Earth Summit on Sustainable Development in 2012: Leading or Misleading the World through a Green Economy? by Uchita de Zoysa

To: SustainabiliTank

Dear Sir/Madam,

Another Earth Summit on Sustainable Development in 2012: Leading or Misleading the World through a Green Economy?

I am herewith sending you an article themed “Another Earth Summit on Sustainable Development in 2012: Leading or Misleading the World through a Green Economy?”. This is one of the first international reviews of the planned Rio+20 Summit or the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) to be held in 2012.

The summit is planned as the 20th Anniversary of the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro held in 1992. The 1st Preparatory Committee meeting of the summit was held in last May, which I participated, was arranged in a hurry without much notification to governments across the world. Specially the Southern developing countries are still  not aware of this critical process that will determine their futures. The process is very weak and the agenda dominated by the so called ‘Green Economy’ has already created doubt over the objectives and the successful outcome of the summit.

This article is written with firsthand experience and quoting the different people who participated in meetings I was involved in organizing at the 1st PrepCom for UNCSD in New York from 17-19th May 2010.

As a participant at the 1992 1st Rio Earth Summit and now involved in the Rio+20, I feel its my duty to early inform readers of the importance of this summit.

I  would greatly appreciate if your paper would publish this article at the earliest convenience to create early awareness amongst our government, stakeholders and citizens.

I thank you in advance for your kind support.


Uchita de Zoysa

Chairman – Global Sustainability Solutions (GLOSS)


Managing Director – D&D Strategic Solutions (D&D)

Executive Director – Centre for Environment & Development (CED)

Convenor – Climate Sustainability PLATFORM

253/10, Thilakaratne Mawatha, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka

tel/fax: +94 11 2768459 mobile: +94 777 372206

e-mail: / /

skype: betterworldasia         skype:








ANOTHER EARTH SUMMIT IN 2012 (by Uchita de Zoysa).doc ANOTHER EARTH SUMMIT IN 2012 (by Uchita de Zoysa).doc
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Posted on on June 4th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune was down in the Gulf again this week. He said that if we all saw what he saw — pelicans struggling to fly under the weight of globs of oil, dolphins swimming through oil slicks — we’d be storming Washington D.C. calling for leadership and action.

And that’s exactly what we’re going to do — we’re launching a bold new campaign to move our nation Beyond Oil.

Watching the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history unfold has been infuriating — it’s clear that there is no quick fix to clean up this mess. We need to make sure this type of disaster never happens again.

Are you fed up? Sickened by what you’re seeing in the Gulf? This is the time to join together and help break our nation free from Big Oil’s stranglehold.

The Sierra Club will be holding rallies and events, running ads, and engaging people all across the country to generate a movement to move Beyond Oil. We have never needed President Obama’s visionary leadership more than we do right now — it’s time to stop letting the oil industry call the shots, and to start embracing clean energy, he said.

But nay, this is not the attitude of everyone, not even from among those most afflicted by the disaster.

We just saw on CNN the lady President of Lafourche Parish of Louisiana defending the drilling for oil because 60% of the people there are employed by the oil industry and 60 years there was no major problem she said.

The Nation must understand that we need to continue drilling she said. If you put on a hold on drilling the rigs may move to West Africa and never come back here. This will only cause more foreign oil that will be coming here.

That also echoes what I heard the other night from a US Department of State official. State is actively out after a list of over ten countries that are being encouraged to look for oil and start develop their resources. This is not a matter of foreign aid – but of security he said, though I wondered if we speak the same language – if we both understand the same thing when uttering security.

The countries mentioned are: Papua New Guinea, Timor L’Este, Uganda, Suriname, Guiana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, Vietnam.

I remarked that except for Vietnam all of theses countries are countries in conflict and thought to myself that an influx of oil money will surely re-inflame civil strife and government suppression. That is what you get for having oil!

This seems the sequel to our posting –

(Ligeti’s “Le Grand Macabre” of gluttonous Breughelland, explains the Louisiana suffering and Washington’s long standing lack of care. Amazing indeed!)


Posted on on May 28th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

The interesting day was organized by an active excellent Media Relations Officer of the New York office of the US Department of State – Ms. Melissa Waheibi. She worked this out with the UN MALU (Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit) as we had to get a Temporary Media Pass to the UN.

Our UN hostess was Ms. Robin Dellarocca an Information Officer with the Department of Public Information (DPI), Strategic Communications Division, who was with us at the beginning and at the end of the day, as well as at that Noon Briefing. Most of the day we were accompanied by Ms. Isabelle Broyer, who is the new Chief of MALU within the UN DPI. She was previously Chief of Guided Tours Section in the UN Outreach that also belongs under the DPI, and she was very gracious and started the day by giving us the tour of the old UN – that is the tall building that blocks for the Manhattanites the view to the East River. The problem is that this building is being mothballed for a while because of the need to remove plenty of asbestos that was put into its construction back in the years  1949-1950  when the real estate firm of Wallace Harrison, the personal architectural adviser for the Rockefeller family, was the lead architect for the building. The final project derived from the drawings of Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier. Now, a so called temporary North Lawn building (TNLB), was created this year, and for all practical purposes the UN has changed a lot. We did not go to that building.

Our group numbered 11 people. Seven that had no UN Press Credentials, including our leader from the Foreign Press Center, New York, and four who were actually accredited journalists with the UN DPI. Our Event was called a “United Nations Seminar For Foreign Journalists.” These people come from all over the world and report about the US which in most cases, at least for those stationed in new York, includes interest in the UN. Many do not have a UN accreditation because of the difficult process of getting one, in a few cases their beet does not include the UN – they were all clearly eager to learn more about the UN. The fact that some UN Press-Card holders were also on the tour is a result from the simple reality that the UN DPI does not have such introductory tours for its own newly accredited correspondents – and those that participated in the Seminar were clearly interested in getting some minimal insight into the general workings of the UN. After all – not all journalists covering the UN believe that rewriting UN Press Releases is called journalism.

Eventually we settled around a large table in the office the DPI has for its liaison to the NGOs accredited with DPI, and later, when that room was no more available, we moved next door to class-room setting, and speakers from various departments from the UN and from some affiliates came to tell us about their ongoing activities.

Our morning covered three activities beyond the introductory welcome-tour: The Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA); The Acting Chief, UN Resources – Promotion and Distribution Unit, UN Multimedia of DPI; and the Noon Briefing.

Our afternoon covered four sessions and closing:  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Deputy Director;  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO); The Chief of External Communications at the United Nations Development Programme who was specific on the Millennium Development Goals; and The Chief of the Security Council Secretariat Branch that introduced us to the work of the UN Security Council.

So what about the Noon Briefing?

Combining my notes with the official transcript

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

From the Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, May 25, 2010.

Today’s noon briefing was by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon everybody.

I understand we have a number of international journalists joining us today from the New York Foreign Press Centre.  So, welcome to you and welcome to everybody else at the briefing.

**Press Conference and Stakeout Today

A couple of press conferences today, immediately following Security Council consultations, Ad Melkert, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, will speak to correspondents at the Security Council stakeout position.  And then at 12:30 p.m., here in this auditorium, there will be a press conference on the launch of several campaigns to combat violations of children’s rights.

**Secretary-General’s Remarks

This morning, the Secretary-General marked today the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with UNICEF’s new Executive Director, Anthony Lake.

The two Protocols — one on prostitution and child pornography, the other on children and armed conflict — have been endorsed by two thirds of all Member States so far.

Mr. Nesirky spelled out further, beyond the language of the official release, that in too many places children are still treated as commodities.

The Secretary-General urged all countries to adopt these instruments within the next two years in order to provide children with a moral and legal shield.  He said that in too many places children are seen as commodities, treated as criminals, instead of being protected as victims, and that in too many conflicts, children are used as soldiers, spies or human shields.  We have his full remarks in my office.

And this afternoon, the Secretary-General will address the pledging Conference for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.  And that’s at 3 p.m., in the ECOSOC Chamber of the North Lawn Building.

**Security Council

The Security Council heard a briefing by Ad Melkert this morning — that’s the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq.  Melkert told Council members that the recent elections and the Government expected to be formed based on the election results offer a new opportunity to strengthen Iraq’s sovereignty.  It will also allow Iraqis to move with greater determination towards reconciliation.  He added, however, that a host of challenges remain, including the continued violence across Iraq, which so far this year has claimed 2,000 lives and wounded 5,000 civilians.

The Council is now in consultations on Iraq, after which Melkert intends to speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout position.  We have copies of his remarks to the Council in my office.

And following the consultations on Iraq, the Security Council will hold an open meeting on the situation in Chad, the Central African Republic and the subregion.


The Secretary-General sent a message today to the UN International Meeting in Support of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process, which is being held in Istanbul under the theme “Ending the Occupation and Establishing the Palestinian State”.

The Secretary-General’s message was delivered by Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.  In it, the Secretary-General expressed his satisfaction that, after a prolonged period of delay and setbacks, proximity talks are finally under way.  He also encourages the parties to avoid provocations or breaches of the Road Map or international law.  He welcomes the modest progress that has been achieved, with the Government of Israel facilitating a number of priority projects and widening the list of commercial goods allowed into Gaza.  We have copies of his message in my office.

And separately, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that Gaza’s agriculture sector is being hit hard.  OCHA says that more than 60 per cent of Gaza households are now food insecure, a situation that agriculture could have helped redress.  However, Israel’s import and access restrictions continue to suffocate the local agriculture sector and directly contribute to rising food insecurity.  There is more in a press release from OCHA in my office.

** Haiti

We have an announcement from the United Nations Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH.

President [René] Préval and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Haiti, Edmond Mulet, have agreed to establish an independent commission to investigate the incident in Les Cayes Prison on 19 January.  The Commission will be a joint United Nations-Haiti effort.  Further details on its composition and mandate will be soon provided by MINUSTAH.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

A couple of press conferences for tomorrow:  at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference to launch the updated 2010 United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects report.  And at 12:30 p.m., Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sports for Development and Peace, will hold a press conference about the upcoming 2010 FIFA Football World Cup in South Africa, to take place from 11 June until 11 July, and the activities of the UN system around this event.  And finally at 1 p.m., there will be a press conference by Ambassador David Balton, the Chair of the Review Conference on the Fish Stocks Agreement, who will brief on efforts to strengthen international action to manage and conserve fish stocks on the high seas.

**Secretary-General on Africa Day

So I can also tell you that today is Africa Day, and in a message to mark the Day, the Secretary-General says that this year’s celebration has particular significance as it marks the fiftieth anniversary of independence of several Francophone African States and Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation.

The Secretary-General also notes in his message that by consistently reminding the international community of its responsibility to the most vulnerable, and affirming that we are all members of a global family of nations, Africa has helped to reshape the global agenda.


So questions, please.  Yes.

{ and there were four correspondents that asked questions – just only four }


**Questions and Answers

(A) Mr. Laolu Akande, Bureau Chief (North America) THE GUARDIAN of NIGERIA. His questions are usually about Africa and the African Union.

Question:  A couple of questions.  One, yesterday the Secretary-General announced that he was going to Nigeria. Do you have more details as to when he is going to go and, apart from the President, who else he is going to be meeting?

Then secondly, on the issue of child rights, I see that the Secretary-General has spoken about that already today.  There is a senator in Nigeria who just married an Egyptian 13-year-old girl.  I was wondering whether the Secretary-General will say something about that?

Spokesperson:  The second, I didn’t quite get that.

Correspondent:  There is senator in Nigeria…

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Correspondent:  …Senator [Ahmad Sani] Yerima, who just married a 13 year old Egyptian, and I was hoping that the Secretary-General will say something about that.

Spokesperson:  Well, on the first question, which is the precise schedule for the Secretary-General’s trip to Nigeria, we don’t yet have the precise layout and the full itinerary.  But we will let you know as soon as we do.  But it will be after the trip to South Africa.  As the Secretary-General mentioned, there is then a leg of that particular trip which takes him to South Africa, to West Africa, I beg your pardon, and Nigeria is part of that.  But exactly where, at what point in the schedule hasn’t been fixed yet.  So we will let you know as soon as we can.

On the second, I don’t think I need to say more than has already been stated about the rights of children.  I think the Secretary-General has been quite clear on that.


(B) Mr. Masood Haider, who is registered with THE DAILY DAWN of Karachi, Pakistan, Leading English Newspaper of Pakistan, but when I looked it up already three years ago, I did not find there articles by Masood. On his personal google listings there is much material about him being the President of the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA), and articles on  His questions always involve the Middle Eas and end up with an attack on Israel.

So, Masood.

Question:  …specifically about this particular senator, I know that he has made comments.  I want to know whether the United Nations considers itself as having a moral voice, you know, to speak, you know, when such violations of something that it thinks is important to talk about when there is direct violation even by the people who have the power.  Doesn’t the Secretary-General mean to raise the moral voice against such things?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General’s moral voice on this question is very clear.  But that doesn’t mean that we have to comment on the specific cases.  But I have stated what the general principle is and so has the Secretary-General.  And I think that that’s a fairly clear answer.  Yes, Masood.

MASOOD HAIDER:  Talking about the moral voice, the disclosure yesterday in the newspaper in London that Israel offered South Africa nuclear warheads in exchange for certain things, and how is that going to impact the nuclear negotiations going on over here at the United Nations on NPT, which Israel refuses to join nor was it disclosed how many weapons it has.  So the Secretary-General was asked this question yesterday, which he did not answer, I mean [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General did answer the question yesterday, and I have no need to elaborate on what he said.

Question:  But in his…  So what you are saying is it will not have any impact whatsoever on the NPT and the negotiations over there?  Or [inaudible crosstalk]

Spokesperson:  What will have, not have an impact?

Question:  …Middle East nuclear-free zone that he has been espousing?

Spokesperson:  It’s not just the Secretary-General that’s espousing this.  This is an agreement that goes back quite some way.  And it’s not simply the Secretary-General’s voice on this. That’s the first thing.  The second is that the Secretary-General spoke out very clearly yesterday about what’s required of the States parties who are taking part in this Review Conference; that there are people, everybody is watching; the world is watching, and that it’s clear that it’s not easy to reach an agreement.  And it’s clear that there are complications that you are alluding to.  But that doesn’t mean that the countries who are taking part in this Review Conference shouldn’t focus on making their best effort to reach a deal.  That’s what the SG, the Secretary-General, was talking about yesterday.  And I think that there is not much more that I can add to that.  Further questions?  Yes.


(C) Ms. Catherine Mercier, CBC Radio-Canada, Producer – United Nations.

Question:  Yesterday the Secretary-General in his press conference mentioned that he wanted to make this building the greenest building possible.  I was wondering if there was a clear plan, for instance, regarding the cafeteria, because it seems to me that even now it could be made much greener than it is.  Not using disposable cups for instance; there are no real glasses, real cups and many people of course it means like hundreds and hundreds of beverages every day.  So is there a clear plan or will there be one?  Maybe it’s a question for Mr. [Michael] Adlerstein, but I just wanted to hear you on that.

Spokesperson:  I’m pretty sure you are right that that is a question for others, not specifically for me.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t find out, try to find out an answer to it.  But what’s important here is that the idea of transforming this building into a green building is one that will take some time to realize.  We’re not there yet, as everybody knows.  In the meantime, measures can always be undertaken to try to improve the environment or impact that everybody here, whoever it is and whatever we’re doing.  So there is always room for improvement.  So I am sure that folks in the relevant section, the relevant department, can look at measures that could be taken.  Okay.


Yes, Matthew.


Question:  I just wanted to find out…

Spokesperson:  I said Matthew, and then I’ll come to you, Masood, again.  Sorry?

Matthew Russell Lee:  Okay, and then I, you can, then I’ll pass it back to you, Masood.  Unless you’re going environmental?

Spokesperson:  Yeah.  Are you going environmental?  Are you going green?

Masood Haider:  Go ahead, Matthew.


(4) MATTHEW R. LEE, of INNER CITY PRESS – The only real investigative reporter at the UN for years. His questions mostly do not get official answers but his postings are most enlightening.

Question:  Okay.  It’s reported that in South Sudan the UN has pulled its staff out of Jonglei state due to unrest.  Is that the case, and what can, what does the UN, doesn’t UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] have a protection of civilians mandate?  I mean, are they, what’s the relation between it being too dangerous for civilians staff, or are military personnel of UNMIS going to this location?

Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll try to get further guidance on this.  We’re aware of the reports and we’ll try to get further guidance.  This is always a difficult balancing act here — to get it right, to balance the need to be on the spot, to help the people you are there to help, but at the same time to balance that against your duty of care to the staff you have sent to do that job.  So it’s sometimes a dilemma to do that.  But that’s as a general principle.  I don’t know the full details of this particular case and we’ll try to find out more.


Masood.  What’s you question, Masood?

Question:  Okay.  What I am saying is, IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] has now got this thing from Iran.  Now, how will that impact the negotiations over here if it keeps a point of report that Iran in fact is on its way to comply, as the Brazilians and the Turkish people, Turkish [inaudible].  How will that impact the negotiations over here?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, as the Secretary-General said yesterday, he spoke to the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mr. [Yukiya] Amano, and the communication that was received from the Iranians is being analysed and assessed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.  So we still don’t know what it said precisely, and we still don’t know precisely what it means.  And therefore it’s difficult to assess what impact it might have on Security Council consultations that are going on.  I’m sure that members of the Security Council, if you ask them, would have their views on it.  The Secretary-General has made clear two things:  one, that this is in general in the hands of the Security Council; and the second thing, that the proposal or the deal struck between Iran, Turkey and Brazil would represent a positive step if combined with the full compliance that the international community expects of Iran with existing Security Council resolutions.



Question:  Sure, on Sudan, I wanted, actually, two questions, both about sort of related to yesterday’s press conference by the Secretary-General.  One was this question of both Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari and Mr. [Haile] Menkerios going to the inauguration of Omer Al-Bashir, given his International Criminal Court indictment.  Was there some — and I have gone over the Secretary-General’s answer a number of times — had, did, particularly for Mr. Menkerios, who is solely a UN not AU employee, was this, did the Office of Legal Affairs, who essentially sort of authorized what seems to many to be a change of policy, even going back as far as, I mean, to have UN officials engage with an indicted, someone indicted for crimes of war is something new.  And who signed off on that?

Spokesperson:  It’s just not true that it’s new. It’s just not true.  The point is that both these gentlemen, Mr. Gambari and Mr. Menkerios, are appointed by the Secretary-General under a Security Council mandate to carry out a job in Sudan — in the case of Mr. Gambari jointly under the African Union, as you pointed out.  Their job is to interact with the Sudanese Government.  That’s their job, to ensure that the missions, the important missions, the large missions trying to do the work that you mentioned in the previous question; they interact.  That’s obvious.  And as the Secretary-General said yesterday, this is no more, no less than their participation in an event that carries political significance as well as being a ceremony.  It has political significance, but crucially, they have a mandate to be there and to interact with the Sudanese authorities.

Question:  [inaudible] keep contact at the high level such as the Secretary-General, I would assume Mr. Menkerios to a minimum necessary to carry out the operational functions, because, I mean, Human Rights Watch has said this is legitimizing, or really, minim… making a mockery of the fact that if somebody is indicted for war crimes and yet can meet openly and be celebrated by UN officials.  Is that, what’s the Secretary-General’s response to that?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, Human Rights Watch are entitled to their view, and they do extraordinary work. The second thing is they have a job to do, large missions to run.  They need to be able to interact with the Sudanese authorities and they have a mandate to do so.

Question:  To follow up on that, you say there is no change in policy, but were there any precedents before of such top-level UN officials coming close to someone who was indicted by the ICC?

Spokesperson:  Of course, when it’s been operationally necessary with President Bashir, that’s the case.  But when it’s been necessary for the operational reasons that we’ve talked about here before.  Yeah.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  I don’t think I need to repeat again — I already did once — I don’t think I need to repeat again what the Secretary-General said yesterday.  Okay.  Other questions?

Question:  I have a follow-up?

Spokesperson:  Yeah.


Laolu Akande joins the question about Sudan –

Question:  I’m sure you know that it’s a rather tough issue, but we have to ask the question.  Do you think by allowing those two top UN officials to go and be part of that inauguration, simple question, do you think that undermines the work of the Tribunal?

Spokesperson:  Absolutely not.  No.  The fact is Mr. Bashir was elected by the Sudanese people as the President in the recent elections.  That’s a fact.  And there is an inauguration.  That’s also a fact.  It’s a political event as well as a ceremony.  It involves the swearing-in, the inauguration of the Head of State of that country where we have two sizeable missions, with people doing difficult work to help the people of Sudan. And that’s the reason why they are there, and that’s the reasons why the need to interact with the Sudanese authorities.


Matthew Lee about Sri Lanka –

Question:  Last Monday, about eight days ago, when this International Crisis Group report came out about Sri Lanka, you’d said that the UN would study it and would have some response to the report, particularly to the part that said, that called for an investigation of the UN’s own actions pulling out of Kilinochi, ineffectively calling for a ceasefire and funding internment camps.  Is that response, is, when can we expect the responses, particularly the factual ones of just how much money was spent on the camps.  Is that ready?

Spokesperson:  Not yet.

Question:  [inaudible] I wanted to, maybe, this goes back to yesterday’s press conference by the Secretary-General.  I was, I’m still trying to understand, I sort of recited the, this, the critique of the ICG.  And he seemed to say, I totally reject it.  That…

Spokesperson:  No, I think, Matthew, that’s wrong.  What he was rejecting was the catalogue of allegations that you listed that were not in the ICG report.

Question:  There was only one that was additional.  So that’s the one that he… he was only rejecting that one?

Spokesperson:  Go through the list and maybe you will see what I mean.

Question:  But I want to, I am going to ask you about that allegation, because I want to know what he rejects about it.  Philip Alston has said that a number of LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] leaders who were, came out to surrender after having spoken with Vijay Nambiar, the Chief of Staff, were in fact — he believes, Alston believes — summarily executed by the Sri Lankan Government.  So the question is, and it’s a question that Alston himself has raised, at least in the corridors, what was Chief of Staff Vijay Nambiar’s role in encouraging them to come out?  No, I don’t know what the role was, but it seems like it’s a fair question to say should there be an investigation to find out whether the Chief of Staff either, you know, God forbid, knew they would be killed or had reason to not tell them to come out if in fact they were killed.  So, what’s he rejecting about that, I guess, that’s the factual question?  And what’s the answer?  What did Vijay Nambiar know when he told them to come out?

Spokesperson:  The Chef de Cabinet { Mr. Vijay Nambiar from India }has talked about this publicly and made clear that this was, that he had no direct contact with the people who were being asked to surrender.  He had no direct contact with them.  He spoke to the Sri Lankan leaders and was conveying a message that was relayed to him not by someone from the Tamil community.  I will be able to give you the exact ins and outs if you need it, but he has spoken publicly about it.

Correspondent:  [inaudible] I really try to cover it very closely.  I’m not, I’m not…

Spokesperson:  Yes, yes he has.  He did so quite recently in an interview with Al Jazeera.

Question:  Can we get, I guess…?

Spokesperson:  Well, you can ask Al Jazeera.

Question:  Maybe, get, I mean…?

Spokesperson:  Have a look at what he said on Al Jazeera.  That’s probably not a bad idea.

Correspondent:  Actually, Al Jazeera is no longer shown in the UN.  It used to be on UNTV, but that’s not…

Spokesperson:  Now look, let’s not go down this road.

Correspondent:  No, I understand, but…

Spokesperson:  Do you know at the moment I can’t see any TV channels at the moment, Matthew?  In my office I can’t see any TV channels because of the technical work that’s going on in the building.  There are difficulties.  So we don’t need to go down that route.

Question:  Can I get a transcript of what he said?  I am assuming that the UN kept a transcript?

Spokesperson:  Just watch Al Jazeera, okay?  You can ask them, I’m sure they can help you.

Spokesperson:  Other questions?  No?  Okay.  All right, we have our guests waiting for us.  Thank you very much.

* ***


So what we just witnessed was that one investigative reporter (Matthew Lee) wanted to know about steps the UN has taken in Sudan and Sri Lanka.

In the case of Sudan the UN sent two high officials to participate at the reinauguration of President Bashir who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court of war crimes. It seems that if needed the UN has to deal with Bashir, on a de facto basis – but by going to his party – this is nothing less then an acceptance de jure of his stolen election and a slap at the judges of the ICC.

In the case of Sri Lanka, the question is if the Chef de Cabinet to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was involved in delivering rebels to be executed by the government. If you do not ask these questions you will never know that it is difficult to get straigt answers – and only one journalist at the UN bothers looking for answers – seemingly most others are Press-Release mincers while doing that work in their UN cubicles.

A second active person clearly came there to look for loopholes to attack Israel. That is clearly his right but it reflects on the UN.

A third active Journalist was there because he gathers information on how to better Africa. This is Laudatory.

The Fourth Journalist, the lady from Canada, Catherine Mercier, was gratifying to us – she actually tried to find out if the UN is serious about its professed intent of appearing green – and the truth is indeed very far from the UN stated goals. In all these last, nearly 20 years since the Rio Conference of 1992, and the call for an Agenda 21,  the UN has done in its own buildings absolutely zero.


Further, in 2006 the UN used to show these Noon Briefings to the Press on Manhattan Chanel 78 on New York TV. That used to be an inducement to get into the Briefing room many more journalists. Mid – 2007 this was discontinued and when I asked about it from journalists and DPI members no-body knew of any other venue. Now, in this tour, I learned from the lady that spoke on UN Media Resources that the UNTV is being seen in Manhattan on Chanel # 150 on Time Warner Cable and it includes the Noon Briefings.

With this knowledge I followed up by watching the programs on this Thursday May 27th, and Friday May 28th. I was curious to follow up and see who, and how many of the Journalists show up and are active at Question time.

So, for Thursday May 27, 2010:

There was a journalist from the Republic of Korea who had many questions relating to the Korea situation. He was told that the Secretary-General said that he expects the Security Council to take action to which there was an expression of wonder about the idea of a UNSG telling the Security Council what to do.

– Masood Haider was asking on the situation in Gaza at the time that in Istanbul there is an attempt to restart the proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The answer was that any action that can increase tension while the proximity talks wer started have to be watched very carefully.

– Masood was joined by a correspondent from Lebanon who wanted to know about Israeli actions in Lebanon.

– Matthew Lee implied that the UN must have safeguards to guard it from itself as per a complaint from a member of the Somali delegation who complained about UN spending funds in Mogadishu. Same goes for the EU.

Matthew Lee had specific questions regarding a Sierra Leone UN paid person who declared he will run for elections in Sierra Leone while on UN pay. Thw answer was tat such a thing is clearly not right. The question was specific but the answer was generic.

Matthew continued with questions about the Security Council discussing the renaming of the mission to Congo – what are the priorities? He was answered that on Friday he will have a chance to ask the question from the guest.

– Matthew continue with questions about payments to a UN official in Congo who is under scrutiny.

We had thus again just 4 people – Masood and Matthew and two new participants. One that was seemingly on the Masood team, and a new face interested in Korea.


For Friday May 28, 2010:

Today there were only questions from Masood and Matthew.

The topic for Masood was the Rio meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations under the chairmanship of President Lula, and with the Participation of UNSG Ban Ki-moon. Also about the bombing in Lahore.

Matthew’s questions dealt with the UN in Congo.


Posted on on January 7th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Killings in Sri Lanka go on for over ten years, and the UN, nor
anyone else, have tried for real to stop them. Now – this is not China
nor Russia that the UN can hide behind – “what can we do?”

It is not even Congo, where forests and resources make involvement by
the big powers hard to come by – this is just Sri Lanka, and a rag tag
bunch, cut off from Greater India, that lives on the outskirts of the
climate change battered island, and that on top also  want their
cultural autonomy. Even a website on Sustainable Development speaks up
from a higher ethics level and louder then the mighty 38th floor at
the UN.


———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Thu, Jan 7, 2010 at 11:22 AM
Subject: PRESS RELEASE: Tests show Sri Lanka execution video
“authentic” — UN expert

7 January 2009

UN expert concludes that Sri Lankan video is authentic, calls for an
independent war crimes investigation

GENEVA — Reports by three independent experts strongly point to the
authenticity of a videotape released by Channel 4 in Britain which
appears to show the summary execution of bound, blindfolded, and naked
Tamils by Sri Lankan soldiers.  This was announced today by the UN
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions,
Philip Alston, on the basis of detailed analyses conducted by
recognized experts in forensic pathology, forensic video analysis, and
firearm evidence.

Alston commissioned the three reports following the publication of
four opinions by Sri Lankan experts, all of which concluded that the
video was a fake.  The Government of Sri Lanka informed the UN Human
Rights Council that it would therefore not be undertaking any
investigation of the allegations made.  “Senior Government officials
called upon me to apologize and to withdraw the allegations,” said
Alston.  “They also criticized me for not having undertaken my own
technical analysis.  In response to that criticism and to what seemed
to me the patent inadequacies of the reports commissioned by the
Government (two of which were prepared by officials of the Sri Lankan
army), I requested highly qualified and totally independent experts to
undertake evaluations.”

Alston released the full text of the expert opinions in a “Technical
Note” made public in New York today.  “Together, the reports by these
experts strongly suggest that the video is authentic,” Alston stated.

“Given these conclusions, and in light of the persistent flow of other
allegations of extrajudicial executions by both sides during the
closing phases of the war against the LTTE, I call for the
establishment of an independent inquiry to carry out an impartial
investigation into war crimes and other grave violations of
international humanitarian and human rights law allegedly committed in
Sri Lanka.”

Alston summarized the key findings of the experts:

Mr Peter Diaczuk, an expert in firearms evidence, concluded that the
recoil, movement of the weapon and the shooter, and the gases expelled
from the muzzle in both apparent shootings were consistent with firing
live ammunition, and not with shooting blank cartridges.

Dr Daniel Spitz, a prominent forensic pathologist, found that the
footage appeared authentic, especially with respect to the two
individuals who are shown being shot in the head at close range.  He
found that the body reaction, movement, and blood evidence was
entirely consistent with what would be expected in such shootings.

Mr Jeff Spivack, an expert in forensic video analysis, found no
evidence of breaks in continuity in the video, no additional video
layers, and no evidence of image manipulation.

Alston added that the independent experts’ analyses also
systematically rebutted most of the arguments relied upon by Sri
Lanka’s experts in support of their contention that the video was
faked.  He gave the following examples:

(a)        A Sri Lankan expert stated that there was no recoil or
movement of the weapon discharged.  However, Mr Spivack and Mr Diaczuk
described the recoil visible on the video, and the way in which the
movement was consistent with firing live ammunition.
(b)        A Sri Lankan expert stated that the lack of audio
synchronization with the video indicated manipulation.  However, Mr
Spivack stated that the video/audio synchronization in the video was
well within acceptable limits, and that audio can be ahead or behind
video, subject to various variables.
(c)        A Sri Lankan expert stated that the movement of the second
victim after being shot was not consistent with the normal expected
reaction.  However, Mr Spitz stated that the movement was entirely
consistent with the manner in which the individual was apparently
(d)        A Sri Lankan expert stated that while wind could be heard
on the audio, it was not evident in the video.  Mr Spivack however
described multiple places in the video where there is clear evidence
of wind.
(e)        Sri Lanka’s experts argued that the footage was likely to
have been recorded on a digital camcorder, and not a mobile phone.  Mr
Spivack concluded that the metadata he retrieved from the video was
entirely consistent with multimedia files produced by mobile phones
with video recording capability, and that it would have been very
difficult to alter the metadata.

There are a small number of characteristics of the video which the
experts were unable to explain.  These included the movement of
certain victims in the video, 17 frames at the end of the video, and
the date of 17 July 2009 encoded in the video.  Each of these
characteristics can, however, be explained in a manner entirely
consistent with the conclusion that the videotape appears to be

In sum, while there are some unexplained elements in the video, there
are strong indications of its authenticity.  In addition, most of the
arguments relied upon by the Government of Sri Lanka to impugn the
video have been shown to be flawed.


Mr. Philip Alston was appointed Special Rapporteur in 2004 and reports
to the United Nations Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights first decided to appoint
a Special Rapporteur to examine questions relevant to summary or
arbitrary executions in 1982. Mr. Alston is Professor of Law and
Faculty Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at
New York University School of Law.

Full texts of technical note & its appendix containing independent
experts’ analyses are available at:…

Technical Note Appendix.pdf
4133K   View   Download

Technical Note.pdf
181K   View   Download

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur on
extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions:… or write to
 eje at

For press inquiries and additional information on the Special
Rapporteurs’ work, please contact Ulrich Garms (Tel.: + 41 22 917 9203
/ e-mail:  ugarms at or Pasipau Wadonda-Chirwa (Tel.: + 41 22
917 9252 / e-mail:  pwadonda-chirwa at or write to
 eje at


Posted on on June 21st, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

As Sri Lanka Arrests Two UN Staff, UNHCR Offers Praise After Staying Silent.

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, June 19 — Two UN staff members were disappeared by the Sri Lankan government six days ago in Vavuniya. For days, the UN said nothing. An e-mail was sent to Inner City Press, along with a photo of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon meeting with the staff in Vavuniya on May 23. Those disappeared served as drivers for the UN Office of Project Services and UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency.

After some inquiries, the UN belatedly announced that two staff had been arrested, leading to short articles in the Indian and Canadian press, neither of which included the staff members’ names. They are Kandasamy “Saundi” Saundrarajan of UNOPS and N. Charles Raveendran of UNHCR. They are Tamils.

Meanwhile UNHCR’s country officer for Sri Lanka Amin Awar continued to praise the government and the internment camps in Vavuniya. While in Sri Lanka in May, Inner City Press published a story about another UNHCR staffer, detained by the government since last year.

Amin Awar, who had not responded to an emailed request to comment on the case, approached this reporter in the lobby of the Colombo Hilton on May 23 and argued that the court system in Sri Lanka is complex, but said he was advocating for the detained man.

No update has been provided, and now two more staffers, including one from UNHCR, are detained. How much more will the UN put up with, or as some say, cover up?

The email, lightly edited, is below.

UN’s Ban and Vavuniya staff, standing up for them not shown

Subj: 2 UN Staff abducted 4 days ago and now believed to be tortured by Sri Lankan Army Military Intelligence – Pls Help to Release them

From: [Name withheld for fear of retaliation or worse]
To: Matthew.Lee [at]
Sent: 6/19/2009

Dear Matthew,

We write this email in desperation seeking your help to put more pressure on Sri Lankan Authorities and release 2 United Nations Staff ( I from UNOPS and 1 from UNHCR ) abducted by Sri Lankan Army Military Intelligence Officials in Vavuniya four days ago and currently detained. We have tried all the possible escalations within UN, including an urgent message to our Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon but nothing has helped so far.

We reliably learn that they are now being detained and tortured at a Sri Lankan Army Military Intelligence interrogation camp in Kurumankadu, Vavuniya and since it is weekend no one is taking it serious & taking some bold action for their release or access to them & ensure they are safe.

In our May30th Sit Report, our ground officers have highlighted the wide spread abductions and accounted for more than 13,310 missing people in Vavuniya IDP Camps, compared to the previous count. But our higher management in Colombo and Geneva has decided to downplay it and reported it as, “decrease is associated with double counting. Additional verification is required”. They never initiated a project for additional verification. Now we feel the pain of abduction when two of our colleagues are abducted.

Photo of our Vavuniya UN Team Group Photo with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon when he visited Vavuniya last month, attached.

We don’t know when we will see our colleagues again and the same smile … please help.

Due to security issues we cant talk on phone and sending this email with great difficulty & hope you will understand it.

Thanks in advance.

Concerned UN Staff, Sri Lanka

* * * * * *
In Sri Lanka Camps, UN Blind and Deaf Without Cameras or Cell Phones, African Concern.

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, June 19 –While it has been reported that in the UN-funded internment camps in Sri Lanka “UN officials have been stopped from bringing in cameras and mobile phones,” the Spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday told Inner City Press, “I don’t think the UN would accept that.”

Since the UN did accept the detention by the government of UN staff earlier this year, it is not clear if the UN would accept being barred from exposing abuses they see in the camps or even photographing them. The Spokesperson said she would check. We’ll be waiting.

Despite these reported restrictions the UN’s top humanitarian John Holmes, who has yet to respond to requests for comment on the government killing off its investigation into the murder of 17 Action Contre La Faim aid workers, is quoted that “We do have pretty much full access to those camps at the moment.”

Would that be, access without cell phones or cameras? What does OCHA do when it becomes aware of abuses? It claimed that it advocated quietly about its detained staff. But the government said the issue was only raised once it was publicly asked about by the Press at the UN.

UN’s Ban speaks with envoy Fowler, kidnapped in Niger, on cell phone not seen in Sri Lanka

At a UN reception Friday day on the topic of sickle-cell anemia, several African Ambassadors expressed to Inner City Press their concern for what has happened this year in Sri Lanka. An Ambassador from the Maghreb asked, whatever happened to the Responsibility to Protect? Before that final push, shouldn’t somebody have stopped it?

Another referred to reports that LTTE officials who tried to surrender by waving the white flag, after communications via UN envoy Vijay Nambiar, had reportedly been shot and killed. “That is not good,” said the outgoing Permanent Representative of a country that itself suffered a genocide. Ironically, these African Ambassadors who are portrayed as more callous than their Western counterparts appear more genuinely concerned. But politics has dictated what has happened, and what is happening. Watch this site.


Posted on on June 18th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

 Former President Bill Clinton, who earlier this week shared the podium with UNSG Ban Ki-moon at the UN, when the latter appointed him as his representative for Haiti, was scheduled to share with him also the dinner table, podium, and the “GLOBAL HUMANITARIAN AWARD of THE FOREIGN POLICY ASSOCIATION at its 2009 Global Philanthropy Awards Dinner, Wednesday, June 17th, 2009, at the St. Regis Roof Ballroom, Midtown Manhattan.

Considering that all at the UN seem to believe that Mr. Ban Ki-moon has actually started already his re-election campaign, at a time he is very much under criticism for the very low key ways he handles important issues that end up in his lap – this as his main focus seems to be on the dictum “do not offend” when this applies to the main powers that will decide on his reelection. He makes statements that are not intended to lead to results, and some actually even question sometimes the veracity of what was said – this is unforgivable.

We looked at all of this and concluded, these last days, that Bill Clinton was ill advice at cooperating with the UNSG if he is simply used as a way to collect IOUs from the US Administration to be used later in the re-election campaign.

We wrote about this at:…

Thinking about the FPA event, further, these days of Washington’s involvement in Climate Change, sharing the podium also with the CEO of the Italian oil company – ENI – who was getting the FPA’s Corporate Social Responsibility Award – might also not have been the greatest idea either.

Last night I went to St. Regis, saw the Sri Lankan Tamils demonstrating across the street and asking where was Ban Ki-moon when 30, 000 of their people were being killed? Why does he get that Humanitarian Award? They would rather see him go home.

Upstairs, at the dinner table, I saw Mr. Ban Ki-moon, but could not find Mr. Clinton.

Then, when the speaking part started we were informed that Bill Clinton is a no-show. We were told that he could not come because of an emergency in the family – but we were not told what happened. The quiet of the announcement took me back, and I must confess that my feeling was that we were not told the whole truth and secretly I was hoping that Mr. Clinton just decided that this company became too hot for him, and for his wife who is now the official of the family. I listened to the Ban Ki-moon speech, the Paolo Scaroni speech, picked up an ENI documents gift bag, and went home where my wife told me that it was on TV that Hillary Clinton fell and injured her right elbow.

I got my lesson of not jumping to conclusions in the future before collecting more facts, but to be honest, even though I am very sorry for Hillary Clinton’s injury – I think she saved him from future embarrassment as it might have happened had he shared the dinner table last night.


WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton fractured her right elbow during a fall Wednesday, her chief of staff said. Clinton was on her way to the White House when she fell chief of staff Cheryl Mills said.

Clinton was treated at The George Washington University Hospital, just a few blocks from State Department headquarters, before going home. She will undergo surgery to repair her elbow in the coming week, Mills said.


Who was at the event? Obviously, many of the FPA members that paid $1,000 per person for that priviledge, but this time also many UN Ambassadors of oil producing countries and at least one top current official of a US oil company. When I looked for the very few Ambassadors from non-oil countries, I found that in India and Poland there is involvement By ENI as well.

Looking at the hand-out material from ENI – it comes in tabloid sized journals called simply “Oil” – the March 2009 Editorial evaluates the new Administration in Washington as: “The begining, however was warm, without being heartwarming.” The first article says that the real world crisis is water and then an article by former Senator Gary Hart, being introduced as a “renowned green politician” who advocates adapting a new lifestyle and energy saving as the only choice for America if it wants to free itself from dependency on oil supplies from the Gulf. Then “The challenge for Obama is foreign policy and not the economy.” That issue was called “Up & Down” and also contained among other material an interview – “Talking to Daniel Yergin” (from the Boston based CERA consultants) – “The impetus towards recovery from the energy industry – the transformations in the energy world will contribute to counterbalancing the downturn. The US and China will form a new axis of international growth.” Talking about Europe ENI finds that “Disunity can be Strength.” There is a positive article about India – “Elephant fights back,” there is the prediction of China increasing consumption, and of Cuba producing oil.

The June issue of “Oil” titled “the choice.” It starts with pieces on “the theocratic democracy in Iran” and then moves about Iran to “the future lies underground” and this means oil and more oil – leading to Obama’s “the choice” and it is about the US-Iran relationship – with protagonists – Obama and Ahmadi-Nejad. “Obama’s overture – the cold and the lukewarm.” It goes deeper – into “IRANOMICS” studying the policy mistakes made by the US in the past and the few issues US diplomacy should concentrate with. ENI finds that Ayatollah and the US have converging interests. Europe, above all, would gain most from a possible easing of tensions. However, talking to an Iranian ex-governor of the Central Bank – Moscow and some Arab countries are opposed to this for fear of losing their role. Not bad as policy studies paid for by oil!

From here to the need for “mature” diplomacy asa understood by Brent Scowcroft of the Nixon days and keeping an eye on geopolitics as seen by Richard Nathan Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations a clearly solid Republican home.

The former Italian Ambassador too India and Iran, Roberto Toscano, finds “less ideology in the Iranian puzzle” and he lifts the veil “on the “curse of oil and the role played by Italy.” Looking back to the days of Cyrus, Darius, and Xerxes, there is hope in finding a future of thawing of relations with Iran that everyone can benefit. There is some more material and we clearly were impressed though we think that all of this goes against what President Obama said about Iraq that paraphrased meant – we will not be after your oil. Now clearly, if Washington does not find other topics of conversation with Iran in order to build a relationship – all of the above is rightly nothing more then another road to disaster.

We hope that someone sent a package of ENI to the missing Bill Clinton and we hope he would think like us – that this is not what Obama and Hillary need.


To the essence of the event,   I will defer to   the excellent report by InnerCityPress – the writing is so good that we will not attempt to compete with it. I will only add that in his opening, when Mr. Ban Ki-moon tipped his hat to the Tamils, he said that he was the first and last of the world leaders to go to Sri Lanka. He also said he met there with Tamil leaders but as we understand from the press – the last point of meeting Tamils is being left in contention by people that were there with him – but where it seems that he does have a point is the fact that in today’s world the Tamils rank for nothing – so if nobody else in leadership position is speaking up for them – who is he to do so?Aha! but he is just getting the Humanitarian Award of the world corporate philanthropies – does that pass onto him the responsibility to go further then the common politicians?

UN’s Ban Tips Hat to Protesters from High Above NY, Claims He Met With Tamils.

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, June 17 — It was projected as a light evening of honor for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to receive from the Foreign Policy Association a Global Humanitarian Award, along with former US president Bill Clinton.

Clinton, however, canceled his appearance due to “family health issues” — word on the street, literally 55th Street in front of the St. Regis Hotel, was that Hillary was in a car crash. And Ban himself was protested, for hours, with chants urging him to resign, or to “go home,” or at least to feel shame.

The protesters, it must be said, were nearly entirely ethnic Tamils. Despite the tens of thousands of people killed in the war in Sri Lanka, unlike Darfur, Myanmar or the Middle East, the victims have yet to gain noticeable solidarity from non-Tamils. This feels of abandonment was palpable Wednesday night in front of the St. Regis Hotel.

Please read the excellent full report at:…



Posted on on June 17th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

  While 200 Sri Lanka Tamils demonstrated across the street from the St. Regis Hotel where the UN Secretary General was getting the US Foreign PolicyAssociation’s Global Humanitarian Award for 2009, at different New York location the Human Rights Watch presented that Sri Lanka is law-less. At the FPA Mr. Ban insisted that he did whatver he could.


from       HRW Press <>

date       Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 7:23 PM
subject       Sri Lanka: International Investigation Needed

For Immediate Release

Sri Lanka: International Investigation Needed – End of Government Commission on Wartime Abuses Puts Justice at Risk.

(New York, June 17, 2009) – The Sri Lankan government’s announcement that it was ending its special inquiry into conflict-related abuses underscores the need for an international commission to investigate violations of international law by government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Human Rights Watch said today.

“Sri Lanka’s presidential commission of inquiry started with a bang and ended with a whimper,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The need for an international inquiry into abuses by both sides is greater than ever.”

The mandate of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, which was established in 2006 and assigned to investigate 16 incidents of killings, enforced disappearances, assassinations and other serious abuses, expired on June 14, 2009 and reportedly was not renewed. Although the commission’s chairman, former Supreme Court chief justice Nissanka Udalagama, said that seven of the 16 cases had been investigated, none of the commission’s reports have been released or any other public action taken. Among the cases the commission investigated was the brutal killing of five students in Trincomalee, the summary execution of 17 aid workers in Mutur, and the bomb attack that killed 68 bus passengers in Kebitigollewa. Human Rights Watch has expressed concern about the slow pace of the investigations and President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s unwillingness to release the investigation reports.

The last weeks of the war heightened the need for an independent and impartial inquiry. Fighting in northeastern Sri Lanka intensified from early January until the government’s defeat of the LTTE in May. During that period, both sides were implicated in numerous serious violations of the laws of war. LTTE forces used displaced persons as “human shields,” and fired on civilians who tried to flee the conflict area. Government forces repeatedly fired heavy artillery into densely populated areas, including at hospitals caring for the wounded.

During the special session on Sri Lanka of the UN Human Rights Council in May, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pallay, said that an “independent and credible international investigation into recent events should be dispatched to ascertain the occurrence, nature and scale of violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as specific responsibilities.”

On May 23, Rajapaksa and the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, issued a joint statement from Sri Lanka in which the government said it “will take measures to address” the need for an accountability process for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

“The decision to disband the presidential commission shows that President Rajapaksa has little intention of fulfilling his promise to Secretary-General Ban,” said Pearson. “It’s now up to concerned governments to step in and ensure that justice is done for the victims of abuses in Sri Lanka’s long war.”

There have been serious ongoing violations of human rights in Sri Lanka   and a backlog of cases of enforced disappearance and unlawful killings that run to the tens of thousands, as described for example in the 2008 Human Rights Watch report “Recurring Nightmare.” Despite this track record, there have been only a small number of prosecutions.

Human Rights Watch said the presidential commission of inquiry was just the latest inadequate and incomplete effort by the Sri Lankan government to investigate serious human rights abuses and bring those responsible to justice. Other efforts to address violations through the establishment of ad hoc mechanisms in Sri Lanka produced few results, either in providing information or leading to prosecutions.

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Sri Lanka, please visit the following:
·             April 2009 news release, “Sri Lanka: Stop Shelling ‘No-Fire Zone,” at:…
·             March 2008 report, “Recurring Nightmare: State Responsibility for ‘Disappearances’ and Abductions in Sri Lanka,” at:…
·             May 2009 news release, “Sri Lanka: UN Rights Council Fails Victims,” at:…
·             Sri Lanka country page, at:

For more information, please contact:
In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-20-7713-2767; or +44-79-0872-8333 (mobile)
In New York, James Ross (English): +1-646-898-5487 (mobile)
In New Delhi, Meenakshi Ganguly (English, Hindi, Bengali): +91-98-200-36032 (mobile)


Posted on on May 29th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Water’s Edge: Tigers’ Tail
Source: FPA Features
Author: Daniel Widome

The Water’s Edge is a monthly column examining the intersection of domestic and foreign policies, with a special focus on the challenges facing the new Obama administration.

May 28th, 2009

This month, one of the world’s longest and bloodiest wars drew to a close. After a massive months-long offensive, the Sri Lankan military cornered the remaining forces of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) into a small patch of territory in the northeast of the country, and on May 16, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared victory in the 26-year conflict. This was a remarkable and welcome achievement for many reasons. What was particularly notable however, was that the victory seems to contradict much of modern military history. Insurgencies, especially those as resilient and sophisticated as that orchestrated by the LTTE, are not supposed to be resolvable through brute military force alone. Yet in Sri Lanka, this is what seems to have happened. The defeat of the LTTE presents lessons and challenges for the evolving U.S. strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Barack Obama has taken notice.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, also known as the Tamil Tigers, were founded by Vellupillai Prahhakaran in 1976. From 1983, they waged a separatist war in the north and east of Sri Lanka, claiming to represent the country’s ethnic Tamil minority against the majority Sinhalese government in a conflict that ultimately claimed over 80,000 lives. The LTTE was among the most sophisticated militant organizations in the world. For many years, they controlled much of northeastern Sri Lanka and operated as a ruling authority there, providing a full range of governmental services and effectively defending their territory through conventional military means. In addition to the land-based elements common to most insurgencies, the LTTE also had an air force and a navy, known as the “Air Tigers” and “Sea Tigers,” respectively. The LTTE had the dubious distinction of pioneering suicide bombing; their elite “Black Tigers” unit was responsible for the assassination of a former Indian prime minister and a Sri Lankan president. In short, the LTTE was among the most resilient and well-established insurgencies in the world.

Throughout the 26-year conflict, various attempts had been made to mediate between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. In the late 1980s, India deployed an ill-fated peacekeeping force to the island, and Norway spearheaded a mediation effort early in this decade. These efforts eventually came to naught, and in 2008, the government launched a full-scale offensive against LTTE-held territory in the north of the country. In January of this year, the government intensified its campaign in an effort to deal the LTTE a final blow. As the LTTE retreated into densely populated regions, it made extensive use of civilians as human shields against government attack. But the government largely disregarded this tactic, as well as UN-mediated cease-fires and designated “safe zones” in which civilians could seek refuge. It pursued its offensive aggressively, inflicting severe civilian casualties. By April, the UN estimated that nearly 6,500 civilians had been killed in the offensive and about 14,000 had been injured.

In a sense, the Sri Lankan offensive created the first man-made humanitarian crisis of Barack Obama’s presidency. In April, as the LTTE was being squeezed into an ever-smaller plot of territory, Obama expressed his “deep concern” about the situation and called for an immediate cease-fire. He also “call[ed] upon the Government of Sri Lanka to stop shelling the ‘safe zone’ and blocking international aid groups and media from accessing those civilians who have managed to escape.” This month, just days before the LTTE’s final defeat, Obama prefaced a televised statement on his decision to withhold photographs of detainee abuse—arguably a far more salient issue to a U.S. audience—with further concerns about the situation in Sri Lanka. He specifically “urge[d] the Tamil Tigers to lay down their arms and let civilians go,” and he repeated his calls for government forces to stop indiscriminately shelling civilian areas and to give international aid groups access to civilian refugees. The president’s comments were amplified by similar statements from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton UN Ambassador Susan Rice.

Behind the proclamations, however, was something more remarkable: concrete action. The Obama administration acted to delay a $1.9 billion IMF loan to Sri Lanka due to the humanitarian crisis. According to one U.S. official, “the problem … [was] that the Sri Lankans have refused to engage on the humanitarian crisis as a priority,” and that delaying the loan was “an attempt to get [Sri Lankan] priorities back where they should be.” The administration acknowledged that the loan was only being delayed, not canceled, and that there was no particular expectation that the delay would compel the Sri Lankan government to change its behavior. Even so, the delay of the IMF loan—coupled with the administration’s strong, coordinated criticism of the Sri Lankan government—represented a far more robust response to a humanitarian crisis than had been made by previous administrations in similar circumstances. The Clinton administration’s tepid response to the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in particular, is known to have shaped the thinking of some Obama advisors; the president himself may have been similarly motivated.

Obama’s response, however strong, did not stop the Sri Lankan government’s offensive or delay the LTTE’s ultimate demise. Humanitarian concerns aside, the conclusive endgame of Sri Lanka’s civil war presents unsettling questions for the United States’ own ongoing counter-insurgency operations. Recent military history suggests that the best (if not the only) way to defeat an ethnic- or religious-based insurgency is by protecting the civilian population, trying to win the “hearts and minds” of local noncombatants, and utilizing a “light” military footprint. Essentially, the goal is to deprive an insurgency of its base of support. An aggressive military response, on the other hand, plays into the insurgents’ plans. It increases local resentment of the dominant power in the region and drives supporters to the insurgent cause. And given the irregular and asymmetrical method of insurgent warfare, blunt military responses rarely achieve their objectives; tanks and bombers cannot kill insurgents hiding in an urban area without putting a much greater number of civilians at risk, which ultimately serves an insurgent’s political objectives. The evolution of the U.S. war in Iraq—from the 2003 invasion, to the bloody occupation period of 2004-2006, to the present “surge” strategy spearheaded by General David Petraeus—only reinforces these lessons.

In Sri Lanka, however, the government did not abide by these principles. It used an abundance of brute force to liquidate the LTTE insurgency. Tanks, planes, and artillery were utilized liberally, and little effort went into winning the “hearts and minds” of the local population. Instead of coaxing the LTTE to lay down its arms or persuading civilians to withdraw their support, the Sri Lankan government pummeled the insurgency mercilessly, along with anything or anyone in its immediate proximity. This strategy is not “supposed” to work. Yet it did. As President Obama oversees a large-scale reinvestment in the U.S. war in Afghanistan, the Sri Lankan experience raises some pertinent questions. Do the lessons that have been learned in Iraq and in previous insurgencies still hold? How and why did the Sri Lankan government succeed? Will the blatant humanitarian costs incurred by its approach eventually outweigh the military defeat of the LTTE, either in the short-term or in the long-term?

Although these are important questions, it is clear that each insurgency is different. Counter-insurgency campaigns must be tailored to local conditions and cannot be transposed or grafted from one dissimilar conflict to another. It is entirely possible, if not probable, that the Sri Lankan government’s aggressive approach may have planted the seeds for long-term resentment and instability that could temper the short-term success it has just achieved. The endgame of the Sri Lankan civil war certainly has been fraught with irony. The LTTE was a violent organization and the civil war was immensely destructive; the end of both is clearly a good thing. But the Sri Lankan government’s final offensive was indiscriminate in its brutality, and it created a genuine humanitarian crisis.

As if to reinforce the irony, the Sri Lankan government has actually credited President Obama with playing a major role in the success of their offensive. “It is undeniable that the LTTE effectively folded shortly after President Barack Obama told the world that the terrorists were holding innocent Tamil civilians as hostages. He was one of the few world leaders to note that fact so forcefully … I believe that the president’s statement had a great influence on the LTTE,” noted Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United States. If such a sentiment is genuine, Obama faces a new opportunity. He could use his newfound clout with the Sri Lankan government to urge it to relieve the still-ongoing humanitarian crisis and to build the foundation for a sustainable peace.

Daniel Widome is a San Francisco-based foreign policy analyst and writer. He can be reached at  daniel.widome at


What above evaluation missed is the simple fact that except for a lukewarm Indian attempt, practically nobody had any interest in the Sri Lanka issue, except that is China that saw here the potential to gain a warm water port facility in Sri Lanka. As a result, the Sri Lanka government got arms and support from China while the Tamil Tigers got only very little help from India which saw in them potential troublemakers for India itself. Considering the above, much of the FPA suggestions may seem not thoroughly threshed out.


Posted on on May 22nd, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (


 With this announcement, Sri Lanka joins Sudan, Myanmar (Burma), and Congo (Kinshasa) as only the fourth UN member state to be looked at critically, besides the EIGHT Times it investigated Israel because of Palestinian or Lebanese issues.

Interesting, just one third of the HRC – that is 17 nations – or one more then the minimum of 16 in the 59 member body – that asked for this session. When the US and the other new members join this body, will they be able to increase further its relevance?


The Human Rights Council will hold a special session to address the human rights situation in Sri Lanka on Tuesday, 26 May starting 3 p.m. in Room XX, the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The special session is being convened following the request submitted by Germany on behalf of the following 17 members of the Human Rights Council: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Mauritius, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.

In order for a special session to be convened, the support of one-third of the membership of the Council (16 members or more) is required.   Per Council rules, the list of sponsors for special sessions will remain open up to the holding of the meeting.

“It is hoped that the holding of this special session will contribute towards the cause of peace”, stated Human Rights Council President Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi.   “The Human Rights Council cannot be silent when innocent civilians are caught up in armed conflicts.   The international community must strive to deliver justice to victims of human rights violations wherever they occur and ensure that those found guilty of such crimes are held accountable for their actions”, he added.

This will be the eleventh special session of the Human Rights Council.   The Council’s previous special sessions related to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Darfur, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Global Food Crisis and the Global Economic and Financial Crises.


Posted on on May 19th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

 The Times of India, Thiru’puram, May 18, 2009.

MP-elect Shashi Tharoor swings into action.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Thiruvanthapuram, Thiru’puram, Kerala, India

MP-elect and former UN under secretary general Shashi Tharoor has already swung into action — a day after his stunning victory by close to 100,000 votes.

Tharoor has already found out the whereabouts of four local fishermen who were taken into custody by Sri Lankan police, attended close to a dozen weddings, and also visited the trouble torn Bheemapally area where five people were killed after violence broke out between two communities.

“On 17th (Sunday) morning, I got a call from a legislator here saying that four fishermen from here have been taken into custody by the Sri Lankan police. I immediately spoke to my old friend, the foreign secretary, who got in touch with his counterpart in Sri Lanka and found out that the four are safe and will return soon,” Tharoor said here on Monday.

Tharoor created history when he became the Congress candidate to win the Thiruvananthapuram seat with the largest margin in the last two decades.

“The dissatisfaction with the three-year-old Left government and the people here accepting a non-politician — all contributed to my huge victory.

Actually I am humbled by this margin and my focus would be on results than mere slogans,” he said.

Asked if his new role would be a dampener when it comes to his passion of writing books, Tharoor – who has authored 11 books – said this will now have to wait.

“The expectations of the people here are high and they expect me to deliver. Hence writing will have to wait. I have a huge moral obligation to my people here, and I will be opening an office here, which will be staffed six days a week. Moreover, people can get in touch with me on email also,” he said.


THIRUVANATHAPURAM: Shashi Tharoor had fought and lost an election for the post of UN secretary general, but the Congress candidate on Saturday scored a thumping victory from the Thiruvanathapuram Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala to make his debut in Parliament.

Tharoor defeated his nearest CPI rival P Ramachandran Nair by a margin of over 95,000 votes.

53-year-old Tharoor had a 23-year-long career in the UN and had served as the under-secretary general for communications and public information between June 2002 and February 2007, during the term of secretary general Kofi Annan.

In 2006, he was the official candidate of India for the post of secretary general, and came second out of the seven candidates in the race.

The former diplomat and writer was declared as a Congress candidate from Thiruvanathapuram on March 19. Politics was an entirely different ball game for the former diplomat and writer, but the results showed that he played it with élan.

“I used to joke to the press that after my UN days are over, I will reboot. But after my foray into electoral politics, it seemed rebooting was not enough. I switched on to an entirely new operations system,” Tharoor had said at a recent function her


Posted on on May 17th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

 The news from Sri Lanka are all bad. The government, armed by the Chinese is now encircling the Tamil rebels and decimates them in what has close resemblance to genocide. In India the government party is being strengthened in the recent elections and might wake up to the possibility of a Chinese fleet based in Sri Lanka. Pakistan is falling apart leaving exposed a very soft Afghanistan underbelly as entree-points for Islamic Jihadists. Former President Musharaf tells America on the Fareed Zakharia TV program that the funds America spent on him were intended as pay for his army that presented the previous administration with specimens of Al Kaida. Iran and North Korea do not seem to play yet according to Washington tunes either – will Israel?

All of the above as the US dependence on China and India is growing – China, you guessed it – it is all about money, India as a possible counterbalance to excessive dependence on China. And above all of this there is yet to consider that America is still dependent on 70% imports for its energy needs – much of this still from the Middle East.

Into all of this, the world, as Helene Cooper writes from Washington, is watching if there is a “New Perspective” that brings in a shift on Mideast policy. The Pope just toured the Palestinian-Israeli territories and was quite a flop – the world talks about “Missed Chances” in the Pope’s visit. So this Pope, US Catholic Universities aside, is quite fallible – but some US Catholics, as the show at Notre Dame proved it today, have yet to accept this reality.

Tomorrow the gears in Obama’s mind will start rotating on the Israel-Palestine-Iran-Egypt-Saudi Arabia theater. Helene Cooper quotes former ambassador Charles W. Freeman, a person well connected in the Arab world and its oil, and indirectly points at one source of pressure on Israel. Practically everybody expects nevertheless a smooth outcome from the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, but how long before the Israeli leadership will request some show of progress in the matter of the Iranian nukes? To compound the headache, Jeffrey Goldberg presented an evaluation of Mr. Netanyahu’s family background that promises tough negotiations behind closed doors of the White House. We thought it interesting to bring here that article and also to remind US Congress that carbon-saving legislation is extremely important now – this so the US can be weaned from its oil-addiction. The future of oil supplies from the Middle East is not assured.

Further, from the perspective, let us remind our readers of a year-old article in the Wall Street Journal “U.S. Military Launches Alternative-Push – Dependence on Oil Seen as Too Risky; B-1 Takes Test Flight.” (By Yochi J. Dreazen – WSJ, May 21, 2008) – we think that the totality of these news means that for environment/climate change, economy, and also security reasons, a stringent oil tax, under any name, should really be viewed as a security tax – under exactly this name. Again, if the Department of Energy cannot get its act together on Capitol Hill, time has come to send some Department of Defense people over there – they get faster attention!


Thinking about Netanyahu – please note the following article:

Israel’s Fears, Amalek’s Arsenal.

Published: New York Times, Op-Ed Page, May 16, 2009

WHEN the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, visits the White House on Monday for his first stage-setting visit, he will carry with him an agenda that clashes insistently with that of President Obama. Mr. Obama wants Mr. Netanyahu to endorse the creation of a Palestinian state. Mr. Netanyahu wants something else entirely: the president’s agreement that Iran must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Mr. Netanyahu, in his first term as prime minister in the late 1990s, earned a reputation for conspicuous insincerity. It is therefore possible to interpret his fixation on Iran — he told me in a recent conversation that it is ruled by a “messianic apocalyptic cult” — as a way of avoiding the mare’s nest of problems associated with the Middle East peace process, especially the escalating pressure from the Obama administration to curb Jewish settlement on the West Bank.

This reading of Mr. Netanyahu holds that he is, at bottom, a cynic (or, if you agree with him, a pragmatist), who will bluff vigorously but bend whenever he thinks it expedient or unavoidable. In his first term, he betrayed the principles of the Greater Israel movement by relinquishing part of Judaism’s second-holiest city, Hebron, to the control of Yasir Arafat. His pragmatism evinces itself, as well, in his apparent belief that the relationship between Israel and Washington is sacrosanct. In other words, Mr. Netanyahu, despite his rhetoric, would never launch a strike on Iran without the permission of Mr. Obama — permission that in no way appears forthcoming.

But this is to misread both the prime minister and this moment in Jewish history. It is true that Mr. Netanyahu would prefer to avoid hard decisions concerning the Palestinian issue, for reasons both political (he is not, let us say, sympathetic to the cause of Palestinian self-determination) and strategic (he believes the Palestinians, divided and dysfunctional, their extremists firmly in the Iranian camp, are unready for compromise).

Nevertheless, the prime minister’s preoccupation with the Iranian nuclear program seems sincere and deeply felt. I recently asked one of his advisers to gauge for me the depth of Mr. Netanyahu’s anxiety about Iran. His answer: “Think Amalek.”

“Amalek,” in essence, is Hebrew for “existential threat.” Tradition holds that the Amalekites are the undying enemy of the Jews. They appear in Deuteronomy, attacking the rear columns of the Israelites on their escape from Egypt. The rabbis teach that successive generations of Jews have been forced to confront the Amalekites: Nebuchadnezzar, the Crusaders, Torquemada, Hitler and Stalin are all manifestations of Amalek’s malevolent spirit.

If Iran’s nuclear program is, metaphorically, Amalek’s arsenal, then an Israeli prime minister is bound by Jewish history to seek its destruction, regardless of what his allies think. In our recent conversation, Mr. Netanyahu avoided metaphysics and biblical exegesis, but said that Iran’s desire for nuclear weapons represented a “hinge of history.”

“Iran has threatened to annihilate a state,” he said. “In historical terms, this is an astounding thing. It’s a monumental outrage that goes effectively unchallenged in the court of public opinion. Sure, there are perfunctory condemnations, but there’s no j’accuse — there’s no shock.” He argued that one lesson of history is that “bad things tend to get worse if they’re not challenged early.” He went on, “Iranian leaders talk about Israel’s destruction or disappearance while simultaneously creating weapons to ensure its disappearance.”

Mr. Netanyahu doesn’t believe that Iran would necessarily launch a nuclear-tipped missile at Tel Aviv. He argues instead that Iran could bring about the eventual end of Israel simply by possessing such weaponry. “Iran’s militant proxies would be able to fire rockets and engage in other terror activities while enjoying a nuclear umbrella,” he said. This could lead to the depopulation of the Negev and the Galilee, both of which have already endured sustained rocket attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah.

More broadly, he said, a nuclear Iran “would embolden Islamic militants far and wide, on many continents, who would believe that this is a providential sign, that this fanaticism is on the ultimate road to triumph.”

To understand why Mr. Netanyahu sees Iran as a new Amalek, it is essential to understand two aspects of his intellectual and emotional development: The scholarship of his father, and the martyrdom of his older brother.

His father, Benzion Netanyahu, 99, is a pre-eminent historian of Spanish Jewry. “The Origins of the Inquisition in 15th-Century Spain,” his most notable book, toppled previously held understandings of the Inquisition’s birth.

Over more than 1,300 pages, Benzion Netanyahu argued that Spanish hatred of Jews was not merely theologically motivated but based in race hatred (the Spanish pursued the principle of limpieza de sangre, or the purity of blood) that reached back to the ancient world.

The elder Netanyahu also argued that efforts by the Jews of Spain to accommodate their adversaries were futile, in part because the charges against them were devoid of logic or fact, and, perhaps most important, because the written or spoken expression of Jew hatred (his preferred term for anti-Semitism) inevitably led to physical persecution. “What emerges from our survey,” he wrote, “is that the Spanish Inquisition was by no means the result of a fortuitous concourse of circumstances and events. It was the product of a movement that called for its creation and labored for decades to bring it about.”

A close reading of Benzion Netanyahu suggests a belief that anti-Semitism is a sui generis hatred, one that is shape-shifting, impervious to logic and eternal. The only rational response to such sentiment, in the Netanyahu view, is militant Jewish self-defense.

Benjamin Netanyahu and his two brothers were raised in a home darkened by the history of the Inquisition, and they were taught Benzion’s understanding of the consequences of Jewish weakness. In his 1993 book, “A Place Among the Nations,” Benjamin Netanyahu wrote about what he saw as one of the miracles of the Zionist revolution: “The entire world is witnessing the historical transformation of the Jewish people from a condition of powerlessness to power, from a condition of being unable to meet the contingencies of a violent world to one in which the Jewish people is strong enough to pilot its own destiny.”

If his father provided Mr. Netanyahu with his historical framework, his brother Yonatan bequeathed on him the model of a Jew who devoted his spirit to the cause of his people’s survival. Yonatan, who was killed while leading the 1976 raid on the Entebbe airport in Uganda to free Israeli captives of Arab and German hijackers, is perhaps the most venerated figure in the post-Warsaw Ghetto Jewish martyrology, mainly because Entebbe still symbolizes the purest expression of the modern Jewish rejection of passivity.

Friends and advisers say Benjamin Netanyahu took three lessons from his brother’s death: The first is that those who threaten Jews, and have the means to carry out their threats, should be neutralized pre-emptively. The second is that no one will defend the Jews except the Jews themselves. The third is that destiny has chosen the Netanyahus to expose and battle anti-Semitism — before it reaches the point of genocide.

In his eulogy for Yonatan Netanyahu, Shimon Peres, then Israel’s defense minister, said: “There are times when the fate of an entire people rests on a handful of fighters and volunteers. They must secure the uprightness of our world in one short hour. In such moments, they have no one to ask, no one to turn to. The commanders on the spot determine the fate of the battle.”

BENJAMIN Netanyahu faces the daunting task of maintaining Israel’s relationship with the United States, while at the same time forestalling Iran’s nuclear program. If Iran gains nuclear capacity, Israel will have judged him a failure as prime minister; if he does serious damage to his country’s standing in Washington, he will have failed as well.

Mr. Netanyahu may be able to convince Mr. Obama that Iran poses an Amalek-sized threat to Israel, but he will have a much more difficult time convincing him that Iran poses an existential threat to America. It is certainly true that a nuclear Iran is not in the best interests of the United States. It would mean, among other things, the probable beginning of a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region, and it would mean that the 30-year-struggle between America and Iran for domination of the Persian Gulf will be over, with Persia the victor. But the short-term costs, in particular, for an American strike — or an American-approved Israeli strike — could be appallingly high.

As the crisis worsens, Mr. Obama will find his options few, and those that exist will require him to bring to bear all his talents of persuasion. In his effort to engage Iran, he will need to promise a complete end to its international isolation in exchange for a halt to its nuclear program. But at the same time, he must be ready to threaten Iran with total estrangement from the West — the limiting of its gas imports, the choking-off of its banking system — if it continues its nuclear program.

To do this, he must convince Europe, China and Russia that a nuclear Iran will be catastrophic for Middle East stability as well as for their own economies. If he’s unwilling to take military action against Iran, President Obama might soon enough be forced to design a containment strategy meant to scare a nuclear Iran into something resembling quiescence.

Talk of containing Iran after it acquires a nuclear capacity, however, does not make the Israelis (or Iran’s Arab adversaries, for that matter) happy and, in fact, might push them closer to executing a military strike. The president, who has shown he understands the special dread Israelis feel about their precarious existence, surely knows this.

Last year, during his campaign, he told me, “I know that that there are those who would argue that in some ways America has become a safe refuge for the Jewish people, but if you’ve gone through the Holocaust, then that does not offer the same sense of confidence and security as the idea that the Jewish people can take care of themselves no matter what happens.”

Mr. Netanyahu says he supports Mr. Obama’s plan to engage the Iranians. He also supports the tightening of sanctions on the regime, if engagement doesn’t work. But there should be little doubt that, by the end of this year, if no progress is made, Mr. Netanyahu will seriously consider attacking Iran. His military advisers tell me they believe an attack, even an attack conducted without American help or permission, would have a reasonably high chance of setting back the Iranian program for two to five years.

Around the world, this would be an extraordinarily unpopular step, but Mr. Netanyahu knows he would have much of the Israeli public behind him. Even the man who delivered the eulogy at his brother’s funeral, the far more dovish Shimon Peres, has assimilated the lessons Benzion taught his sons.

When I visited recently with Mr. Peres, who is now Israel’s president, I asked him if there is a chance that his country has over-learned the lessons of Jewish history. He answered, “If we have to make a mistake of overreaction or underreaction, I think I prefer the overreaction.”

Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, is the author of “Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror.”


Posted on on January 29th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (


India Speaks Up For Embattled Tamils.
Indranil Banerjie

NEW DELHI, Jan 28 (IPS) – As humanitarian agencies warned of a major crisis unfolding in Sri Lanka, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee made a quick dash Colombo to extract promises concerning the safety of some 250,000 ethnic Tamils trapped in fighting between separatist rebels and government troops. Mukherjee, who flew into Colombo on Tuesday afternoon, returned on Wednesday morning after a crucial meeting with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse.

“The Sri Lankan government has reassured that they would respect the safe zones and minimize the effects of conflict on Tamil civilians,” the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka said in a statement released after the meeting.

“I stressed that military victories offer a political opportunity to restore life to normalcy in the northern province and throughout Sri Lanka,” the high commission statement quoted Mukherjee as saying. “We will work together with the government of Sri Lanka to enable all Sri Lankans, and particularly the Tamil community who have borne the brunt of the effects of the conflict, to lead normal lives as soon as possible.” Speaking to reporters before his departure for Colombo, Mukherjee said India was ”against all sorts of terrorism” and had ”no sympathy for any terrorist activity indulged in by any organisation, particularly LTTE, a banned organisation in India”. He, however, added: ”We shall have to see how civilians can be protected and they do not become hapless victims of the situation.”

“Although India might have reservations about intervening in Sri Lanka, the government is under tremendous pressure from its political allies to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka”, said Praful Bakshi, a retired air force officer who now consults with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

That pressure comes from the Indian government’s coalition ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party, which currently rules the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This state is home to more than 60 million Tamils, many of whom sympathise with their ethnic counterparts in Sri Lanka.

“There is unhappiness and anger here in Tamil Nadu,” Chennai based security expert, B. Raman, told IPS over telephone. “The Sri Lankan government, after the visit of Indian Foreign Secretary [Shiv Shankar Menon] to Colombo earlier this month, made it appear that the Indian government fully approved the Sri Lankan government’s actions. This led to a lot of angry comments in Tamil Nadu.”

The Indian foreign minister needed to go to Colombo to clear misgivings about glossing over a Tamil humanitarian issue, experts in New Delhi felt.

After seizing Mullaitivu, the last town controlled by the rebel LTTE, the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) is reported to have holed up the remnants of the rebels in small patches of jungle. But some 230,000 Tamil civilians retreated along with the rebels into the jungles of Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi Districts. These areas are being continuously shelled by the SLA.

“When the Sri Lankan Army went into Mullaitivu, the town was empty,” said Raman. “There were no reports of arms recovery or the capture of any LTTE soldiers in that town. The entire LTTE apparatus along with more than 200,000 civilians had simply moved into the jungle.”

“The Sri Lankan government claims that these civilians are being held hostage by the LTTE for use as human shields, while the LTTE website has been saying that the civilians fled because 300 of them died in army artillery fire”, Raman said.

India’s concerns on the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka are shared by the world community.

EU Commissioner for external relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner and EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton met Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, in Brussels on Monday to voice their concern.

A statement by the European Commission underlined that the EU, as a co-chair of the Sri Lanka Peace Process, is watching events in the north of the country very closely following the Sri Lankan army’s significant military gains.

The EU leaders urged the government of Sri Lanka “to take decisive action to tackle human rights abuses, including action against the perpetrators, and to guarantee press freedom which is a fundamental component of any functioning democracy”.

They expressed the hope that the government in Sri Lanka “will now give priority to outlining and implementing an ambitious and sustainable political solution which can put Sri Lanka on the path towards peace and reconciliation between communities”.

One specific area of worry is the recently announced 35 sq. km. “safe zone” for Tamil civilians. The Sri Lankan government claims that this patch has been created for the safety of Tamil civilians trapped in the fighting and that Tamils were free to come into this area.

On Tuesday the United Nations issued a statement warning that hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in areas of heavy fighting in Sri Lanka’s north are in serious danger. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked the Sri Lankan government and the rebels “to allow and facilitate the movement of 250,000 civilians currently in the area of fighting to safe areas”.

The U.N. said the Secretary-General is “deeply concerned that the civilian population in the area is in increasingly dire need of humanitarian aid, including food, water, sanitation, and shelter.”

The UN had been transporting food supplies into the conflict areas since October after international agencies were directed to leave the areas amid deteriorating security. But it is proving impossible for the UN teams to continue the relief operations.

“The situation of the civilians is increasingly untenable,” Gordon Weiss, UN spokesman in Sri Lanka has been quoted as saying. “They are directly in the path of the fighting and we have many reports of clusters of civilians being killed and wounded by artillery fire.”

“People are being caught in the crossfire, hospitals and ambulances have been hit by shelling and several aid workers have been injured while evacuating the wounded,” Jacques de Maio, ICRC head of operations for South Asia in Geneva said in a statement on the ICRC Web site.

“When the dust settles, we may see countless victims and a terrible humanitarian situation, unless civilians are protected and international humanitarian law is respected in all circumstances,” Maio said.

The situation is so grim, ICRC’s Bakshi said, that “India must fly in aid immediately without being invited. It must also make it clear that this is a humanitarian mission and not a geo-political issue”.

Indian strategic experts, while viewing the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka with concern, welcome the Sri Lankan Army’s victory against the terrorist LTTE, which was responsible for the assassination of former Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in May 1991.

Gandhi’s assassination was said to have been carried out to avenge the deaths of several top LTTE leaders after the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) created under the mandate of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lankan Accord became embroiled in the civil war. India withdrew the IPKF in 1990 and has since stayed out of the conflict on the island.

Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Vinod Saighal, author of several books on terrorism and strategic expert, said: “With the comprehensive defeat of the LTTE, there is no question that the southern part of the subcontinent stands stabilised.”

“India has not interfered in the Sri Lankan conflict and in fact has tacitly backed the [Rajapakse] government,” Saighal opined. “Now is the time to reach out to the Tamil community in that country to prevent tragedy”.

“As an insurgent force, the LTTE has been completely crushed”, said Raman.

“During the IPKF operations too the LTTE was pushed to the jungles but subsequently managed to come out. This time, the world situation is totally different,” Raman said. ”The LTTE is now a declared global terrorist organisation whose funding and arming has been slashed. It is badly weakened and will find it difficult to survive.”


Posted on on November 13th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Carbon News and Info, Tuesday, 11 November 2008.
The new President of the Maldives says he will begin buying land in other nations as “an insurance policy” in case his nation needs to be evacuated due to rising sea levels from climate change.

The Maldives is a group of 1200 tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, 80 per cent of which are less than one metre above sea level. Much of the most inhabited parts of the country are just 1.5 metres above the water.

The first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Nasheed, and his Vice-President, Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, wasted little time in declaring their plans to British newspapers saying a national fund would be established with royalties from the country’s tourist industry to fund land purchases.

Nasheed told the Guardian that Sri Lanka and India were obvious targets given their proximity, and the cultural similarities of their people to the 300,000 Maldivians. He also named Australia as a possible destination.

Manik said the “worst-case scenario due to sea level rise would be that some or even all of our islands would become uninhabitable and we would have to look for alternative places for Maldivians to live” in an interview with the Financial Times.

“We can do nothing to stop climate change on our own and so we have to buy land elsewhere. It’s an insurance policy for the worst possible outcome,” Nasheed told the Guardian, comparing the concept to Israelis buying land in Palestine.

There is much contention among scientists over how much sea levels can be expected to rise this century. The IPCC landmark 2007 report published conservative estimates of a rise of 25 to 58cm by 2100, criticised as too low by some researchers.

In 2005, authorities announced plans to move the 1000-strong population of the Carteret Atolls, in Papua New Guinea, to Bougainville in what were said to be the first climate change evacuations. Their current homes are predicted to become completely submerged by 2015.


Posted on on October 14th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

India’s humble rickshaw goes solar.
by Elizabeth Roche Mon Oct 13, 2008.   NEW DELHI (AFP) – It’s been touted as a solution to urban India’s traffic woes, chronic pollution and fossil fuel dependence, as well as an escape from backbreaking human toil. A state-of-the-art, solar powered version of the humble cycle-rickshaw promises to deliver on all this and more.

The “soleckshaw,” unveiled this month in New Delhi, is a motorised cycle rickshaw that can be pedalled normally or run on a 36-volt solar battery.

Developed by the state-run Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), prototypes are receiving a baptism of fire by being road-tested in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk area.

One of the city’s oldest and busiest markets, dating back to the Moghul era, Chandni Chowk comprises a byzantine maze of narrow, winding streets, choked with buses, cars, scooters, cyclists and brave pedestrians.

“The most important achievement will be improving the lot of rickshaw drivers,” said Pradip Kumar Sarmah, head of the non-profit Centre for Rural Development.

“It will dignify the job and reduce the labour of pedalling. From rickshaw pullers, they will become rickshaw drivers,” Sarmah said.

India has an estimated eight million cycle-rickshaws.

The makeover includes FM radios and powerpoints for charging mobile phones during rides.

Gone are the flimsy metal and wooden frames that give the regular Delhi rickshaws a tacky, sometimes dubious look.

The “soleckshaw,” which has a top speed of 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) per hour, has a sturdier frame and sprung, foam seats for up to three people.

The fully-charged solar battery will power the rickshaw for 50 to 70 kilometres (30 to 42 miles). Used batteries can be deposited at a centralised solar-powered charging station and replaced for a nominal fee.

If the tests go well, the “soleckshaw” will be a key transport link between sporting venues at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

“Rickshaws were always environment friendly. Now this gives a totally new image that would be more acceptable to the middle-classes,” said Anumita Roychoudhary of the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment.

“Rickshaws have to be seen as a part of the solution for modern traffic woes and pollution. They have never been the problem. The problem is the proliferation of automobiles using fossil fuels,” she said.

Initial public reaction to the “soleckshaw” has been generally favourable, and the rickshaw pullers have few doubts about its benefits.

“Pedalling the rickshaw was very difficult for me,” said Bappa Chatterjee, 25, who migrated to the capital from West Bengal and is one of the 500,000 pullers in Delhi.

“I used to suffer chest pains and shortage of breath going up inclines. This is so much easier.

“Earlier, when people hailed us it was like, ‘Hey you rickshaw puller!’ Police used to harass us, slapping fines even abusing us for what they called wrong parking. Now people look at me with respect,” Chatterjee said.

Mohammed Matin Ansari, another migrant from eastern Bihar state, said the new model offered parity with car, bus and scooter drivers.

“Now we are as good as them,” he said.

Indian authorities have big dreams for the “soleckshaw.”

India’s Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal who hailed the invention for its “zero carbon foot print” said it should be used beyond the confines of Delhi.

“Soleckshaws would be ideal for small families visiting the Taj Mahal,” he told AFP.

At present battery-operated buses ferry people to the iconic monument in Agra — but their limited numbers cannot cope with the heavy tourist rush.

CSIR director Sinha said he hoped an advanced version of the “soleckshaw” with a car-like body would become a viable alternative to the “small car” favoured by Indian middle class families.

“Greenhouse gas emissions are showing an increasing trend year on year and 60 percent of this comes from the global transport sector.

“In the age of global warming, the soleckshaw, with improvements, can be successfully developed as competition for all the petrol and diesel run small cars,” Sinha said.