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SL Government Used Plainclothes Men in Unmarked Cars to Grab UN Staff

June 25, 2009

Inner City Press  – Sri Lankan Government Used Plainclothes Men in Unmarked Cars to Grab UN Staff

UNITED NATIONS, June 23 — While the UN in New York still refuses to confirm that Sri Lanka has detained two Tamil staff members, the acting Country Coordinator, UNHCR’s Amim Awar, has told local staff that the two men were picked up on June 11 and 12 “by plain clothes men, who did not identify themselves, and who were driving an unmarked vehicle.”

Many who disappear that way, particularly in the notorious white vans, are subsequently killed. That such tactics have been deployed by the government onto UN staff who are, at least elsewhere, immune signifies the degree of the UN’s debasement in Sri Lanka.

Amin Awar’s message to staff, obtained by Inner City Press and published below and attached, says that 12 days after the detentions, the UN has

“not been officially informed of the detention, the reasons for this detention, the allegations, if any, of charges that might have been laid against the staff members, or the location of their detention. We understand that their families have not been officially informed. …

We have sought legal advice as to whether the manner in which these men were taken followed due process. The UN acknowledges without reservation the right of the security services of Sri Lanka to investigate any allegations of criminal wrongdoing, including by UN staff members, and will cooperate fully to support due process. However it is our position that any investigation must comply with Sri Lankan national law and be transparent.”

Ironically, when UN peacekeepers commit rape or sexual abuse, for example in the Congo, they are not allowed to be arrested by the national authorities. In the US, if the government wants to arrest or even question a UN staff member, the Secretary General has to waive immunity. Not in Sri Lanka, apparently.

On June 22, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson Michele Montas

Inner City Press:it emerged over the weekend that two more UN staff members had been detained by the Government of Sri Lanka. Reportedly, a driver for UNOPS and a driver for UNHCR. Is OCHA aware of that? And what’s being done to find out why they were detained?

Spokesperson Montas: Okay. I’ll try to find out more on that. Very soon.

More more than 30 hours later, no information has been provided by the UN in New York.

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