Ban Ki-moon’s ‘human wrongs’ - Editorial

8 April 2014 04:14 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon has asked Sri Lanka to engage constructively and cooperate with the UN’s human rights body to implement the US-led resolution passed in Geneva.  This is as it should be.  Ban Ki-moon is after all the top employee of the UN.  He is duty bound to support lesser employees in their work, the relevant individual being the chief of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Navi Pillay.

The UN chief’s request to the Sri Lankan government is a necessary and timely move.  Ki-moon, Pillay and the countries that supported the resolution know that nothing can be moved without Sri Lanka’s cooperation.  Also, these ladies and gentlemen are of the view that Sri Lanka needs to be pushed and prodded to cooperate since the entire process is viewed by Sri Lanka as being pernicious, selective, in violation of accepted practice and for other reasons out of order.

 Sri Lanka for its part has so far played along with palpable reluctance.  The reluctance comes from a recognition of the fact that the human rights issues as they refer to Sri Lanka have nothing to do with eliciting truth, obtaining accountability and justice, or reconciling communities plagued by war-wounds and related suspicion, trepidation and antipathy. 


Ban Ki-moon has to do his job. Sri Lanka must not bear any grudge against the man for this.  He is paid to keep an eye on all things UN and put in a word here or a word there to get things moving whenever he feels such words could be useful


 Be that as it may, Ban Ki-moon has to do his job. Sri Lanka must not bear any grudge against the man for this.  He is paid to keep an eye on all things UN and put in a word here or a word there to get things moving whenever he feels such words could be useful.

 On the other hand, Sri Lanka cannot be faulted for wondering if Ban Ki-moon is doing his job or only part of his job.  It has come to light that the human rights wing of the UN has found the United States of America in violation on 25 counts.  Yes - 25 counts on the issue of human rights.  There are violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  There are other violations which include treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo, NSA surveillance, rights violations during the tenure of President George W. Bush, drone strikes, racism in the prison system, racial profiling, police violence, and criminalisation of the homeless.

 The UN report has expressed serious concern over ‘the limited number of investigations, prosecutions and convictions of members of the Armed Forces and other agents of the US government, including "private contractors” for “unlawful killings” and “torture” during the Bush years’.

 The CIA’s rendition, interrogation and detention programmes have been detailed while concerns have been raised about ‘the barriers to accountability and redress for victims’ posed by ‘the secretive nature of the CIA’s torture programme’.

These must be subjected to credible and independent investigation.  Indeed, all 25 issues require similar treatment.  It is a fact that top officials including former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and John Yoo (who authored the torture memos) and Jose Rodriguez, a former CIA officer in the Bush administration openly defend torture.  Just imagine if persons of corresponding importance and seniority in Sri Lanka did the same.  Wouldn’t it be called ‘confession’?

The revelations of racial disparities in the criminal justice system and law enforcement practices within the USA, similarly, ought to have provoked the UNHRC to recognise the need for ‘ethnic reconciliation’ of a kind that has to be preceded by a full-scale international investigation.  Racism in the prison system, racial profiling and police brutality in the USA indicate serious deficits in law and order, again a matter for concern.  Then there are drone strikes and assassinations, extrajudicial killings and such others for which the US military has licence but which are not sanctioned by the UN.  There’s also NSA surveillance and the inhumane practice of criminalising the homeless.

 There are international laws about all of this.  The UN Chief cannot be unaware of the same.

 So yes, it is correct and proper for Ban Ki-moon to back the UNHRC chief.  The propriety would gain a lot of legitimacy if his backing-enthusiasm is dispensed fairly, i.e. with greater weight being given to the greater violations.  If not, he would not be faulted for erring but being remiss in his duties.  That would not be human error but human wrong, clearly not something that sits well in any discourse on human rights.
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