French newspaper Le Monde published an article accusing the United Nations (UN) of deliberately hiding facts about civilian killings during the last months of the civil war in Sri Lanka in order to protect their own activities in the country.
Following up on independent rapporteur for the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Philip Alston's, request to Colombo to provide details of the killing of LTTE leaders who surrendered the arms, Inner City Press questioned, "given not only the UN's role in the final days of what even it called the "bloodbath on the beach" in Sri Lanka, but especially UN chief of staff Vijay Nambiar's reported role in the deadly surrenders, why Rapporteur Alston has not already demanded answers from the UN itself."
According to investigative journalism by Le Monde, The UN did not publish the number of civilians killed until it was finally leaked. According to a UN confidential report, 7,720 people were killed (among them 678 children) and 18,465 were injured (among them 2,384 children) between January 20 and May 13. A UN official declared to Le Monde that his hierarchy tried to suppress these figures to remain in good terms with the government. When these numbers were leaked, Neil Buhne, the UN official coordinator in Sri Lanka, asked to be the only recipient of the figures in the future. Even the secretary general Ban Ki-moon tried to hide the numbers, according to Le Monde.
Despite the heavy bombings in the last days of the war, the 7,720 dead people are still given as an official figure which was repeated in The New York Times. According to Vijay K. Nambiar, Ban Ki-moon's chief-of-staff cited by Le Monde, the numbers could be closer to 20,000; these figures are corroborated by The Times. The paper discovered compelling evidence showing that on average 1,000 Sri Lankan civilians perished each day during the first 19 days of May. "These figures are not even complete yet. It’s going to end up way more" said a UN source.
The Times relied on aerial photographs, confidential UN documents, witnesses and independent defense experts to understand the final days in the 26 year old Sri Lankan civil war. 200,000 survivors are interned in the Manik Farm refugee camp. The camp was visited twice by The Times investigators. 3,000 wounded civilians are still missing from the last known makeshift hospital. A survivor reported hospitals were bombed by the government which claimed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels were using them as hideouts. “They didn’t want anyone left to say what had happened,” say UN sources.
“We reject all these allegations. Civilians have not been killed by government shelling at all. If civilians have been killed, then that is because of the actions of the LTTE [rebels] who were shooting and killing people when they tried to escape.” said a representative for the Sri Lankan High Commission. Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara of Sri Lanka added "We have not used any shelling or mortaring, only small arms. We know how we are fighting". The aerial images taken by The Times suggest the contrary.
Le Monde also wrote that the United Nations did not help its people on the ground. Text messages sent by local employees in the war zones asked to "stop the war" and "what is the international community doing". "Hundreds of people trying to flew where caught by local dictators and beaten, without distinction of age and sex. I hear them crying." said another one. In April, Vijay Nambiar asked the locals to keep a "low profile" and play an active role in supporting the government.
The Sri Lankan government denied any wrongdoing. The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland cleared Sri Lanka of any alleged war crimes. Sri Lanka gained the support of China, Egypt, India and Cuba.
ICP's Matthew Lee asked UN pokesperson Martin Nesirky: "John Holmes has appeared on an interview with CNN’s [Christiane] Amanpour, and seemed to confirm that during the final days of the fighting in Sri Lanka, that Vijay Nambiar was telephoned by leaders who sought to surrender, who ended up being killed. So, there is a big controversy right now in Sri Lanka about the charge that the Defence Minister, with whom Mr. Ban has met, gave the orders to kill surrendering prisoners. I wonder if it’s possible, is that… Number one, can you, it’d be good to hear instead from Holmes about Nambiar, or maybe from Mr. Nambiar, but what was the UN’s role in these attempted surrenders? And where does it stand on Mr. Ban’s call for accountability or some type of an outside investigation or panel of inquiry into possible war crimes?
Mr Nesirsky's response was, as quoted in the ICP report, "What Mr. Holmes said yesterday, he speaks for himself in this particular case; of course, I am not going to amplify what he said. He knows what he’s talking about. What I would suggest is that you let me find out some more details and then I can answer you with more certainty.
ICP followed with the following: "[a]ll right. Maybe from Mr. Nambiar on some basis, because I think he’s confirmed that he got these calls from people who ended up being killed while waving white flags. So, it seems important to nail down what happened."
Nesirky responded: "[o]nce he’s back in town, we’ll see what we can do."
"If the past is any guide, the Rajapaksa administration will either not provide direct answers, or will issue vituperative denials. It did this in response to video footage depicting Sri Lankan soldiers killing bounded and naked people, footage that has since been authenticated," the ICP said in its report Monday.
War crimes allegations, against key officials in the Sri Lanka Government, based on the Channel-4 video are unlikely to disappear from being raised by organizations keen on bringing action against Colombo in international fora. Two independent forensic analyses in the UK and in the US have established the authenticity of the video, a recent IFJ report has raised the matter's importance in war-crimes investigations, and Alston had earlier said that the UN will carry out its own analysis.
Thirukkural திருக்குறள் Holykural
Kural குறள் - 533
பொருட்பால் - பொச்சாவாமை
எப்பால் நூலோர்க்கும் துணிவு.
'To self-oblivious men no praise'; this rule Decisive wisdom sums of every school.
Thoughtlessness will never acquire fame; and this tenet is upheld by all treatises in the world.
Translation by Rev. Dr. G. U. Pope, Rev W. H. Drew,Rev. John Lazarus and Mr F. W. Ellis