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Does the UN care about its Tamil staff in SL?

July 3, 2009

Inner City Press : In Sri Lanka, UN Hires Lawyer for Arrested Staff, But Will It Protect Anyone?
After more than a week of silence by the UN about two of its staff members grabbed up by Sri Lanka’s government, on July 1 Inner City Press again asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson Michele Montas about their fate. This time, Ms. Montas had an answer. The UN has “hired a lawyer who has visited” the UN staff, who are “still detained in Colombo.”

The head of the UN Refugee Agency in Sri Lanka Amin Awad issued a strange statement saying in essence that the government is free to detain staff as long as procedures are followed. But despite top UN humanitarian John Holmes’ statement that unlike international staff, national staff members of the UN are not immune, the Staff Union disagrees. They criticize Awad’s statement, and counter that national staff have immunity within the scope of their work.

Troublingly, sources in Sri Lanka describe to Inner City Press even the torture of UN staff, and of doctors disappeared by the government after remaining in the conflict zone offering treatment and casualty figures. A Red Cross worker who had been in the conflict zone has been killed in Jaffna, where now newspaper editors face death threats.

Is all of this consistent with Ban Ki-moon and Majinda Rajapaksa’s Joint Statement? At the UN, answers like the hiring of a lawyer to work on the case of grabbed-up staff are only given if the questions keep being asked. Apparently, the UN would rather the questions stopped.
Read more here.

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