Ex-UN Assistant General Secretary won’t comment on ‘confidentiality clause’ preventing verification of war crimes allegations
Posted on February 16th, 2021

By Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

AFormer UN Assistant Secretary General and the author of ‘the report of the Secretary-General’s Internal Review Panel on UN action in Sri Lanka’ Charles Petrie has declined to explain why the UN deliberately thwarted verification of unsubstantiated allegations against Sri Lanka by way of a controversial confidentiality clause. 

The Island raised the issue at a webinar titled ‘Sri Lanka: Quest for Justice, Rule of Law and Democratic Rights’ co-hosted by the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice – New York University, Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice and the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC). The webinar was part of a campaign against Sri Lanka undertaken by interested parties ahead of the 46th sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) scheduled to commence on Feb 22. The sessions will continue till March 23.

Asked whether the panelists could explain why a UN confidentiality clause prevented verification of war crimes allegations till 2031 and why a UN report prepared with the support of ICRC and Vanni based NGOs in 2008-2009 hadn’t been considered, former British diplomat Petrie said: Just…the confidentiality issue… I’m not very…I would not be able to address.

Having declined to respond to the query, Petrie said that he would like to follow up on what former US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice A said in response to The Island query. Rapp who first responded to the query posed to the panelists through moderator Melissa Dring of Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice conveniently refrained from at least referring to the UN confidentiality clause or UN report that placed the number of persons killed at 7,721 (August 2008-May 13, 2009)

Petrie said that there were a lot of documents pertaining to war crimes accusations, including those of the UN. Petrie, one-time investment banker alleged that the then Sri Lankan government exploited an incident involving a UN convoy to set up No Fire Zone in the Vanni east region.

The group of panelists included Pablo de Greiff, a former UN Special Rapporteur, M.A. Sumanthiran, PC, MP, attorey-at-lawBhavani Fonseka of the Center for Policy Alternatives (PTA), Ameer Faaiz, Director of International Affairs of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Ambika Satkunanathan, a former Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and Shreen Saroor, a civil society activist.

Melissa Dring interpreted The Island query as denial of war crimes accusations, a strategy similar to that of the government of Sri Lanka.

According to the Panel of Experts’( Kangaroo court in any reasonable person’s rule book as Sri Lanka is prevented from, leave alone cross examining the accusers, but even to see their faces) Report released on March 31, 2011 even after the mandatory 20 year prohibition (2011-2031) on the releasing of material received of an assurance of absolute confidentiality, relevant information couldn’t be released without declassification review.

The following is the full text of the question forwarded to Dring: The alleged killing of 40,000 civilians (PoE report/137 paragraph/March 2011) remains the primary accusation against GoSL. The AI placed the number of deaths at 10,000 (a few months after PoE report), In between PoE report and the AI report, the UK Parliament was told 60,000 LTTE cadres and 40,000 civilians perished in the final phase of the assault ( Siobhain McDonagh, MP). In addition to those reports and various other claims, a UN study (Aug 2008-May 2009/POE/paragraph 134) estimated the number killed at 7,721 and wounded at 18,479. Can you please explain why UN failed to verify various reports/claims particularly against the backdrop of Lord Naseby’s disclosure in Oct 2017 (Lord Naseby’s claim was based on British HC diplomatic cables)

The following question addressed to Pablo de Greiff was not answered  at all: You addressed issues relating to monitoring of international action and accountability. Can you, please explain the status/outcome of UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict (Goldstone report) against the backdrop of the head of the mission contradicting his own report?

UK based Amal Abeywardena asked the panel about Sri Lanka not having confidence in the UN inquiring into LTTE atrocities and how could the international community probe violations on all sides, including those committed during JVP uprisings as well as the IPKF period and investigating the role of the supporters of the LTTE who supplied material resources to the Tigers when Human Rights violations were committed. Rapp who responded to the query conveniently side-stepped the accountability issues pertaining to the deployment of the Indian Army in Sri Lanka (1987-1990). A full recording of the live webinar can be found in this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0muPVjyF7E8

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