News / Asia

UN Admits Failures in Protecting Sri Lankan Civilians

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon listens to a speech in the Swiss National Council during his visit in the Autumn Parliament Session in Bern, September 11, 2012.UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon listens to a speech in the Swiss National Council during his visit in the Autumn Parliament Session in Bern, September 11, 2012.
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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon listens to a speech in the Swiss National Council during his visit in the Autumn Parliament Session in Bern, September 11, 2012.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon listens to a speech in the Swiss National Council during his visit in the Autumn Parliament Session in Bern, September 11, 2012.
Margaret Besheer
A United Nations internal review of its efforts to protect and assist civilians during the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009 concludes that it was a systemic and grave failure to the detriment of thousands of civilians.

The report released Wednesday, but first reported by the BBC on Tuesday, points to failures throughout the U.N. system, starting with senior officials, but also directing blame at the U.N. Security Council, the Human Rights Council and others for not robustly responding to the escalation of violence in Sri Lanka.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman, Martin Nesirky, told reporters that Ban is committed to strengthening the United Nations and its core mission of protecting people from harm.

“As an immediate first step, the secretary-general will organize a senior-level team to give careful consideration to the recommendations and advise him on a way forward.  Other action will follow in short order,” Nesirky said.

Wednesday’s report, written by former U.N. official Charles Petrie and three staff members, criticized U.N. officials for not confronting the Sri Lankan government for its responsibility in violations of international law, particularly the shelling of civilians, because it feared the government would limit its humanitarian access, which it did anyway.

In September 2009, the Sri Lankan government told the United Nations to relocate its staff out of the area of its operations, saying it could no longer guarantee their security.
International staff left, but several from Sri Lanka stayed, because the government made it difficult for their relatives to leave.

The panel criticizes the U.N. for not standing up to the government, saying “the reaction of the U.N. system as a whole to the government’s withdrawal of security assurances represented a serious failure.”

An earlier U.N. report said credible sources estimated that as many as 40,000 civilians died in the last months of fighting when the government cornered rebel Tamil Tigers in the north of the country, trapping hundreds of thousands of civilians with them.  Both sides have been accused of committing war crimes during the conflict.

Human Rights Watch’s U.N. director, Philippe Bolopion, said the report identifies the mistakes that led the world body to fail in its most basic obligations to Sri Lankan civilians, and he urged action and reform of the entire U.N. system.

The panel’s report concludes that events in Sri Lanka “mark a grave failure of the U.N. to adequately respond to early warnings and to the evolving situation 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 U.N.”

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by: Shiva from: Canada
November 18, 2012 6:32 PM
The leaders that collaborated with the alleged war criminal Sri Lankan regime have a responsibility to ensure justice and must demand for an independent international transparent war crimes and genocide investigation without further delay.

I believe that the International Community has been mislead and duped by the Sri Lankan and the Indian UPA leaders on the ground situation in Eelam.

The International community has failed to understand the history of the state sponsored race riots, systematic oppression and state terrorism against the Tamils by the successive Sinhala Buddhist Apartheid regime since independence from the British in 1948 and prior to the LTTE era.

The LTTE was a product of State terrorism, oppression and Sinhala hooliganism and it was aided and trained by the Indians under eminent leaders like Indra Gandhi and MGR to protect the Tamils from State terrorism and oppression.

LTTE has committed crimes in this process as the state was committing much more heinous crimes and atrocities against the innocent Tamils. The massacre of Tamils, mass murders, rape, abductions and torture, indiscriminate bombing and shelling of no-fly safe zones by the Sri Lankan forces in May 2009 has exposed the true colours and the criminal mindset of the Sri Lankan Buddhist Apartheid racist regime to the world.

It is sad that the Western leaders and the International community including the UN were simply watching the massacre, mass murders, rape, torture, abductions, detentions, murder of NGOs, Students and murder of journalists without any attempt to prevent it.

It is shame on the leaders who failed miserably to prevent ethnic cleansing of a minority and human sufferings despite global human rights groups, media including Channel 4 TV, UK brought gruesome human sufferings, indiscriminate killings of unarmed civilians, women and children that were exposed all over the world.

Now the Tamils are without any rights, made as slaves in their own homeland. Tamil lands are robbed including to build Buddhist temples by rogue Buddhist Monks and Eelam has become a forced Sinhala army occupation.

Is this a conspiracy against the Tamils or ...?


by: J michael from: USA
November 16, 2012 1:19 AM
The ineffectiveness of the Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon has created the climate for despots like Rajapakse and Assad to take the upper hand in delivering the most heinous crimes to their own citizens in the name of ethnic and minority cleansing.

Ban Ki Moon and his team must be asked to step down and an inquiry must be held to make them accountable for their utter negligence and indifference toward the suffering of people in countries that are neglected by the international media.

Such irresponsible behavior of the UN only fosters terror by Governments on their own people and allows for the perpetration of more war crimes. We need to ask what the UN has actually done in terms of tangible measurable results toward world peace. The answer might be in the negative.


by: Gentleman from: Colombo
November 16, 2012 1:16 AM
The international community should realize the Sri Lanka's problem. it's not a ethnic conflict but a systematic genocide with genocidal massacres. The governments used different terms to carry out their objectives such as fighting against terrorism humanitarian operations. It's the to save the Tamils in SL under a international mechanism.


by: EqJustice
November 14, 2012 10:24 PM
Wow..no lessons learned from Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan and why not Syria? It's time to put aside the politics and focus on core values and the mission of this agency - i.e to protect humanity. So appalled when UN member states praised SL when they declared the term 'Humanitarian Operation' whereas they indeed pushed these innocent lives into hell. Can give some dignity to those perished by bringing those evils who committed these atrocities to justice? Please..Mr Moon - This called the redemption if you ever believe in such things. Tamil minority asked for one thing since Independence. Treat me like any other person and not second class.

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