Who monitors the monitors? – I
Posted on August 12th, 2016

By Neville Ladduwahetty Courtesy The Island

The first article under the above title published in The Island on July 26, 2016 referred to the failures of the United Nations and its systems to prevent, and when started, to stop the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. The report of the Independent Inquiry appointed by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, into the actions of the United Nations in Rwanda, states:

“The international community did not prevent the genocide, nor did it stop the killing once the genocide had begun. The failure has left wounds within Rwanda society and in the relationship between Rwanda and the international community, in particular the United Nations. The failure by the United Nations to prevent and subsequently, to stop the genocide in Rwanda was a failure by the United Nations system as a whole”.

The first article also quoted from the report of an internal panel appointed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, to review the conduct of the UN in Sri Lanka. The panel headed by Charles Petrie states:


Some of the graves of the victims of Rwandan genocide

“…the Panel’s report concludes that events in Sri Lanka mark a great failure of the UN to adequately respond to early warnings and to the evolving situations during the final stages of the conflict and its aftermath, to the detriment of hundreds of thousands of civilians and in contradiction with the principles and responsibilities of the UN. The elements of what was a systemic failure can be distilled into the following: (i) a UN system that lacked an adequate and shared sense of responsibility for human rights violations; (ii) an incoherent internal UN crisis-management structure which failed to conceive and execute a coherent strategy in response to early warnings and subsequent international human rights and humanitarian law violations against civilians…(iv) a model for UN action in the field that was designed for development rather than conflict responses; (v) the most senior position in the field graded at D1seniority that was below the heavy responsibilities required for the position and a corps of senior staff that did not sufficiently include the armed conflict, political, human rights and international humanitarian law and related management experience to deal with the challenge Sri Lanka presented, who were given insufficient support (vi) inadequate political support from Member States as a whole, notwithstanding bilateral efforts from all regions, and inadequate effort by the Secretariat to build such support.”

The UN Systems that operated during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda was the Human Rights Commission. The UN system that operated in 2009 when the LTTE took nearly 350,000 civilians hostage during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s separatist armed conflict was the Human Rights Council that was setup in 2006. The findings cited above by the Independent Inquiry on Rwanda and internal panel on the conduct of the UN in Sri Lanka both conclude that the failure of the UN to fulfill its principles and responsibilities caused the death of over 800,000 in Rwanda and thousands of civilians in Sri Lanka.


The most recent failure of the UN and its systems is in South Sudan. Cited below are extracts from an article by Kevin Sieffin The Washington Post of August 7, 2016, titled “WHERE WILL WE RUN THIS TIME”? The article describes the plight of the civilians as a result of the abject failure of the UN and its systems despite their mandate to “Contribute, through dialogue and cooperation, towards the prevention of human rights violations and respond promptly to human rights emergencies” (Article 5 (f). The Washington Post article states:

“The United Nations operates 16 peacekeeping missions around the world, many of which exist primarily to protect vulnerable civilians. That mandate was reinforced after the genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia in themid – 1990s occurred as outnumbered U.N. peacekeeping forces stood by”.

“But 20 years later, the United Nations is once again facing sharp criticism for failing to protect civilians, this time in South Sudan, where 160,000 people are living in camps….For civilians in the camp, it was like trying to escape from a prison set aflame, the barbed-wire fences penning in wailing mothers and children with swarms of gunmen”.

Mayik eventually managed to flee through a large metal barrier, known as Charlie Gate, into the U.N. staff compound next door, which was protected by additional layers of razor wire… “The camp isn’t safe” said an old woman. Finally Mayik approached Charlie Gate. And then she saw it: a backhoe piling green sand-filled blast barriers, one on top of another, in front of the gate. The United Nations was sealing off the entrance”.

“Where will we run this time?” Mayik asked, her voice cracking as the machine rumbled on”.

“The U.N. mission, known as UNMISS, said it would shelter anyone fleeing from the violence, and it created six makeshift tent cities in late 2013 and early 2014. It was the right thing to do, the U.N. peacekeeping chief, HerveLadsous, would later tell reporters… Over time, the camps became so neglected – its latrines overflowing, its food in near-perpetual shortage – that it failed to meet the minimum humanitarian standards governing the world’s refugee and displacement camps”.

“The women saw how peacekeepers ran from the fighting or refused to use their weapons. “What will the internationals do to protect us this time” asked one woman”.

“It’s the U.N. now who can protect us”, she said firmly. “Last time they said they weren’t ready. This time they have to be”.

“The United Nations, in an internal investigation, would eventually conclude that peacekeeping failed in Malakal through a “combination of inaction, abandonment of post and refusal to engage””.


The cry of the desperate and forgotten civilians in South Sudan is “WHERE WILL WE RUN THIS TIME?” The United Nations is deaf to this cry. This not the first time civilians trapped in internal armed conflicts had looked to the UN for protection. But the UN will plod along collecting a trophy of failures. It will never admit its incapabilityto meet these challenges, despite statements from past UN Secretary Generals such as Boutros Ghaliwho stated: “the tragedy that provoked UNPROFOR’s involvement (in Bosnia) remains an affront to the world’s conscience. Abstention is not an acceptable option for the international community at such a time”.

The present UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon “abstained” from going to Sri Lanka in January 2009 and using his international influence to prevail on the LTTE to release the nearly 350,000 civilians the group had taken hostage during the separatist armed conflict. Had he done so, many lives would have been saved. For this he has to be held accountable. Instead, he went one week after the fighting was over and wanted the Sri Lankan Government to initiate an accountability process. The UN is sure to follow the same procedure after it fails to prevent human rights violations in South Sudan.

The Washington Post article cited above covers the tragic situation in South Sudan. What must be realized is that South Sudan is only one of 16 peace keeping missions the U.N. operates around the world. No one knows the situation in the other 15 operations. It cannot be any different. The question is when will the UN admit that it does not have the capacity to fulfill the mandate granted by the General Assembly? Holding Member States such as Sri Lanka or South Sudan down the road accountable for human rights tragedies is not the answer. As Mayki in South Sudan said: “We need a way out”.

The “way out” should be for the UN to abandon its practice of passing resolutions to hold Member States accountable for human rights violations during and following conflicts, until the UN is in a position to set in place practices and demonstrate that it has the ability to protect and prevent violations from being committed. The fact that the UN failed in Rwanda and in Sri Lanka and keeps on failing in South Sudan means that there is an urgent need for a new way out.

That new way should be for the General Assembly to appoint an Independent Panel of Inquiry to inquire into the workings of the UN in the other 15 peace keeping operations the UN is engaged in, after which a fresh approach should be developed to protect and preventhuman rights violations to civilians in zones of conflict. Until then, all activities associated with ongoing accountability exercises such as in Sri Lanka should cease becauseof failure on the part of the UN to prevent the civilians from being taken hostage by the LTTE and their use as a human shield makes the UN a party directly associated with the accountability process.

The issue of accountability finally boils down to who is more responsible:

Is it the party that fails to prevent violations from happening, or those responsible for what follows? If the accountability process in Sri Lanka proceeds as intended, an objective evaluation by an inquiring bodywould no doubt acknowledge the culpability of the UN for its many failures both during and after the conflict was concluded.

7 Responses to “Who monitors the monitors? – I”

  1. Cerberus Says:

    Mr. Ladduwahetty, You have again nailed one of the main problems facing Sri Lanka. We had the UN monitors in Sri Lanka right through the war. They were privy to everything that was happening on the ground. If I recall correctly, the Red Cross was also there. Together with the Norwegian monitors, the UN people were more intent on faulting the Sri Lanka forces instead of the LTTE. Norway had this weird idea that both sides must ‘be equal’ to face the conflict, and so built up the LTTE !

    The LTTE broke the ceasefire rules over 3000 times during the cease-fire agreement. The UN is similar to the principal of a school who takes the side of the bully instead of protecting the weaker children. The weaker children then have no recourse against the bully. The bully is, in this case, the powerful countries and India who come up with arbitrary rules to judge the actions of small countries such as GoSL who were fighting to survive against a well funded well armed terrorist force with backing from the most powerful countries in the world.

    For 30 years various foreign powers kept trying to force Sri Lanka to give into the demands of the LTTE group instead of trying to make the LTTE lay down arms and accept Democracy and the rule of law. It was in desperation that Sri Lanka launched the final assault against the LTTE after the LTTE cut off the water supply at Mavil Aru to thousands of farmers.

    Even to get the necessary arms GoSL had to turn to China and Pakistan. The French and UK sent urgent messages at the last minute trying to prevail on GoSL to release LTTE leaders to be extradited to the West. UN monitors were part of this game right through the operations. They were monitoring the ground situation on the front and also via drone planes which were sending pictures.

    Now the West and India have managed to install a puppet Govt which has agreed to everything the UN wanted and are intent on punishing the previous regime for not obeying their orders to release LTTE leaders. The entire war crimes investigation is so one sided it is unbelievable that our leaders agreed to this mockery of a trial to hang those who stood by the people. Step by step we are moving towards a tragedy unfolding like a Shakespearian play.

    As Mr. Ladduwahetty has pointed out – what is the role of the UN ?. Is it to watch tragedies unfold and then try to find fault with the Govt of the weaker countries who tried to defend their people? Massive war crimes committed on an ongoing basis by the rich and the powerful countries are totally ignored. Today the UN is a useless organisation. The UN has no honor, no useful role in protecting the weaker countries from bullying by the powerful countries.

    The UN’s proper role ought to be PREVENTION OF WAR as suggested by Mr. Laduwahetty.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    Our thanks to Mr Ladduwahetty on exposure of UN’s Accountability issues.

    After WW II, the UN was created to stop a WW III. For that purpose, the UN must be held Accountable to prevent internal conflicts within countries before they escalate into civil wars.

    So far, the UN appears to have failed to do so.

    The UN has to change its approach to conflicts and apply PREVENTIVE measures, which they failed to do in Sri Lanka.

    It is evident now that the UN failed in Sri Lanka’s GoSL conflict with the LTTE. Therefore, the UN has to drop all charges of War Crimes (False), and look to measures that bring a lasting Peace, without the division of the country through Federalism.

  3. Cerberus Says:

    How come the UN does nothing about the atrocities committed by our neighbor India? The Indian army has all powers. They seem to have the power to kill anyone and get away with it. It is said that thousands of Naxalites in the jungles were just killed off by Indian army with no questions asked. The 3000-year-old institutionalized slavery that is practiced even today is not condemned at all by the UN as a human right violation. People are stigmatized from birth by the caste system which puts the caste on the birth certificate and ensures that they are enslaved to the so called upper caste by virtue of their birth. It is said that during the recent floods which happened in south India some of the low caste flood victims could not get even a glass of water since they were considered Dalits or untouchables. If the UN pressures India they can remove this blot on their society by passing one law. The law is to stop putting caste on the birth certificate.
    This will be a preventive measure UN can take if they really want to prevent human rights violations.

  4. Ratanapala Says:

    Is there anything right done by “Monkey” Moon since taking office other than pandering to the whims, fancies and atrocities of the Christian West? He is a disgrace even to this much corrupt Institution. Sooner the world see the last of this ineffectual hypocrite the better for all of humanity!

    UN has outlasted its use by date and it is now a burden on the rest of the world – mainly the Third World!

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    Questions :

    What is the point of Lanka being a Member of the United Nations ? There are 193 Member States in the UN.
    What is the help Lanka has received/receives from the UN ?
    Can someone give us a list of help Lanka has received so far from the UN ?

    What is the point of Lanka being a Member of the Commonwealth of Nations ?
    What help has Lanka received so far as a member of the Commonwealth ?
    Can someone give us a list of help Lanka has received so far from the C’wealth ?

  6. Fran Diaz Says:

    Sri Lanka was highly ACCOUNTABLE in that the SL Armed Forces rescued over 300,000 Tamil Civllians from the clutches of the LTTE who used these Tamil Civilians as a Human Shield, against all International Law.

    What has the UNHRC to say about the over 300,000 Tamil civilians taken as a Human Shield by the LTTE, and RESCUED by the SL Armed Forces during the last phases of the conflict with the LTTE ?

    Are all good deeds done by the SL Armed Forces ignored by the UNHRC ?

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    Will the UN back Lanka is this Suggestion ?

    Will the UN say it is essential for UN’s Accountability that Sri Lanka PORTS (both sea & air) must be used ONLY for peaceful purposes, always.

    – Is Yahap up to getting that done together with the UN ?

    – Will INDIA back Lanka & the UN with such an idea ?


    Quote of the Day : ‘Discretion the better part of Valor’

    Another : “What price a Human Life ? “

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