The U.N. today released a damning 128-page internal review of its conduct in Sri Lanka during the bloody, final several months of the country's 28 year-long civil war. The main takeaway -- as I reported yesterday -- is that the U.N. failed abjectly in its responsibility to protect the more than 40,000 civilians killed, mostly as a result of indiscriminate government shelling.
But the published report includes a series of redacted passages describing a key, high-level meeting in March 2009 with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in which several of Ban's top advisors argued against publishing the U.N. death toll, characterizing Sri Lankan atrocities at war crimes, or pressing for an international investigation into possible abuses by combatants.
The redacted content came to light because the document released by the U.N. secretariat contained an embedded reference to the blacked-out passage. Simply cutting and pasting the redacted sections from the original PDF on a Microsoft Word document revealed the portions that had been scrubbed from the report.
During that 2009 meeting, Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, had proposed that the U.N. publish a casualty estimates toll -- which, at the time, amounted to more than 2,800 dead and 7,500 injured -- from an internal U.N. assessment, and to warn the Sri Lankan government and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that they could face war crimes charges.
But her request was fiercely resisted.
Several top U.N. advisors, including the U.N.'s top man in Sri Lanka, Neil Buhne, and the U.N.'s emergency relief coordinator, John Holmes, "did not stand by the casualty numbers, saying that the data were ‘not verified,'" noted a redacted part of the report.
"Several participants questioned whether it was the right time for such a statement, [and] asked to see the draft before release and suggested it be reviewed by OLA (The Office of Legal Affairs)," according to the report.
But Pillay dismissed the concerns, and proceeded to prepare a statement warning the Sri Lankan military and the LTTE that their actions "may constitute international crimes, entailing individual responsibility, including for war crimes and crimes against humanity."
"Credible sources have indicated that more than 2,800 civilians have been killed and 7,500 injured since 20 January, many of them inside the no-fire zone," the statement read. "There are legitimate fears that the loss of life may reach catastrophic levels if the fighting continues in this way.... More civilians have been killed in Sri Lanka in the past seven weeks than in Afghanistan during the whole of last year."
Ban's chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, appealed to Pillay at the time to reconsider.
"I perceive that the severity of the draft statement you propose to make is likely to have very serious political and legal repercussions for the rest of us and I hope you can consider carefully this fact while finalizing your statement," Nambiar wrote in an email to Pillay, according to an un-redacted portion of the report. Reminding her that Buhne and Holmes had "underlined the fact that the accuracy of the figures remains still quite questionable.... By getting on the record with these figures I feel we are getting into difficult terrain."
Holmes, meanwhile, made a similar case for holding back the number, citing the "difficulty of being able to defend them with confidence" and the "risk of a counterproductive reaction from the Sri Lankan government is high."
"The reference to possible war crimes will be controversial," he added. "I am not sure going into this dimension is helpful."
Members of the policy planning committee also expressed concerns that a proposal by U.N. Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Frances Deng to travel to Sri Lanka "may add to overcrowding of U.N. actors" dealing with the crisis. They said that a proposal to appoint a special envoy for Sri Lanka to raise the profile of the conflict was a good idea but that it "did not seem politically feasible" given government opposition.
In the months following the war, according to the public section of the report, the U.N. brass was increasingly focused on exploring how perpetrators of rights abuses might be held accountable. But the U.N. redacted passages showing that there was "considerable disagreement" among senior U.N. officials on how to achieve that.
"Discussing whether or not the Secretary General should establish an international Commission of Experts, many participants [at a July 30 Policy Planning Committee meeting] were reticent to do so without the support of the [Sri Lankan] government and at a time when Member States were also not supportive. At the same, participants also acknowledged that a government mechanism was unlikely to seriously address past violations. The Secretary General said that ‘the government should be given the political space to develop a domestic mechanism' and that only if this did not occur within a limited time frame would the UN look at alternatives."
Nearly 2 and a half years later, and despite Sri Lanka's commitment to a credible investigation into war-time abuses, the U.N. has yet to issue a firm public call for an independent inquiry into the war.
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
Ban Ki-moon added his voice today to the rising chorus of world leaders denouncing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brutal repression of civilians and his failure to listen to his people's demands for democratic change.
"I am gravely concerned about Syria," Ban said in speech this afternoon at Yale University. "Each day in Syria brings new reports of appalling violations of human rights and tragic suffering."
Throughout the Arab Spring, Ban's outspoken criticism of Syria and other long-ruling Arab despots has helped to recast the former South Korean foreign minister -- who had been criticized by human rights advocates during his first term as being too soft on despots -- as a champion of human rights and democracy.
But it is his response to the final, bloody months of Sri Lanka's decades-long civil war -- a human rights calamity that has largely fallen below the radar of most global policymakers -- that may ultimately do more to shape his legacy, and that of the United Nations, as a defender of human rights.
An internal U.N. probe into the U.N.'s response to the crisis in Sri Lanka concluded that the United Nations had failed to fulfill its obligations to protect civilians in Sri Lanka, where as many as 40,000 civilians were killed in the final five months of the conflict that ended in May 2009, according to a draft summary that was leaked to the BBC.
"Events in Sri Lanka mark a grave failure of the UN," the report concluded.
Sri Lanka's 26-year-long civil war pitted the country's ruling Sinhalese majority against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a ruthless insurgency that assassinated an Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, and introduced the practice of suicide bombings.
The Sri Lankan government launched an all-out offensive in late 2008 in an effort to crush the LTTE. The operation, which centered on a Tamil stronghold in the northern Vanni region of Sri Lanka, succeeded in wiping out the armed movement in May 2009. But the operation took a devastating toll on ethnic Tamil civilians, who were largely trapped between the rival forces. Most of the victims died of indiscriminate shelling by Sri Lankan military forces.
A U.N. panel, set up by Ban, concluded in April 2011 that both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE committed massive human rights violations.
The panel recommended that Ban set up an "independent international mechanism" to carry out a more thorough probe into "credible" allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, which held more than 300,000 civilians "hostage" to enforce a "strategic human buffer between themselves and the advancing Sri Lankan army."
But the panel also faulted the United Nations for failing "to take actions that might have protected civilians" and called on Ban to conduct a "comprehensive review" of the U.N. system's response to the crisis.
The U.N. chief has never authorized an independent investigation, arguing that only an intergovernmental organization like the U.N. Security Council or the Human Rights Council has the power to do it. (That hasn't happened).
But Ban did set up the panel to review the U.N.'s conduct in Sri Lanka.
Ban's spokesman, Martin Nesirky, said that the U.N. chief would meet with the panel's chief author, Charles Petrie, on Wednesday morning and would release the report soon after.
But he declined to comment on the contents of the leaked report in a press briefing today. "We don't comment on leaked documents," he said. "The secretary general will be receiving the report of the Internal Review Panel this week. When he does receive it and has read it, it will be made public."
The Petrie report points to a "systemic failure" in the U.N. response to the crisis, and criticized the organization for withdrawing personnel from the conflict zone in September 2008, on the grounds that the Sri Lankan government could no longer guarantee their safety, according to the BBC, which published quotes from the confidential report.
The report also faults "many senior UN staff" who "did not perceive the prevention of killing of civilians as their responsibility -- and agency and department heads at UNHQ were not instructing them otherwise." There was, according to the report, "a sustained and institutional reluctance [by U.N. personnel in Sri Lanka] to stand up for the rights of people they were mandated to assist."
Steven R. Ratner, a professor at University of Michigan’s Law school who served on Ban’s first panel, said the reports of the latest findings are consistent with his teams’ own investigations.
But he said the more serious failure is that the Sri Lankan’s have never conducted a credible investigation into the crimes.
“The U.N. failed, but the Sri Lankan government is ultimately most responsible," Ratner told Turtle Bay. "They are the ones who have not begun a bona fide accountability process.”
Ratner said that the conduct of the Sri Lankan government, and the failure of the outside world to prevent atrocities, has given a “black eye” to the newly emerging Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, which was adopted at the United Nations by world leaders in 2005.
“You had a crisis that unfolded before the eyes of the United Nations and the major powers and no action was taken,” he said. “Everything was done in a very quiet way. I think it’s a terrible defeat and setback for the whole commitment to R2P.”
It remains unclear what action, if any, the U.N. will take in response to the report. It will never be possible to assess Ban's record on human rights without taking a hard look at what the U.N. did, or more importantly, didn't do in Sri Lanka.
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
The U.N.'s chief human rights official, Navi Pillay, advised U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon earlier this month to seek the removal of a former Sri Lankan officer from a top peacekeeping advisory committee because soldiers under his command may have committed abuses during the bloody, final months of the country's 28-year-long civil war, according to a confidential account obtained by Turtle Bay.
Major Gen. Shavendra Silva, who currently serves as Sri Lanka's deputy U.N. envoy, was selected last month by the U.N.'s Asia Group, which consists of all the U.N.'s Asian member states, to serve on the U.N. secretary general's senior advisory panel. The 20-member panel was established to examine the prospect of awarding pay increases to U.N. peacekeepers.
But his appointment has drawn intense criticism from Pillay and human rights advocates, who claim that his role as a military commander of Sri Lanka's 58th division, which faced allegations of rights abuses, should make him ineligible.
In a confidential letter to Ban, excerpts of which were reviewed by Turtle Bay, Pillay wrote that Silva's appointment threatens to harm the reputation of the U.N.'s peacekeeping division. She appealed to Ban and other top U.N. officials to ask the Asian Group to reconsider its decision, and select a replacement.
"I am seriously concerned that were Mr. Silva to assume this senior position related to U.N. peacekeeping the damage to the reputation and integrity of the organization will be serious and sustained," Pillay wrote. "His appointment runs directly counter to long-standing efforts ... to move peacekeeping operations away from previous incidents of serious mismanagement and abusive conduct on a stronger, more professional and more respected footing."
In response to Pillay's criticism of the appointment, Sri Lanka's mission to the United Nations issued a statement this week saying Pillay's demands are "unfair and unethical."
"Nowhere in the world, certainly not in this country, do you convict a person on the basis of allegations; nor do you besmirch a person's reputation by repeating allegations," Sri Lanka's U.N. ambassador Palitha Kohona, told Turtle Bay. "I think it is not only improper but unfair and unjust.
Kohona said his government has formed a committee to investigate allegations of human rights abuses detailed by a Sri Lankan lessons learned panel. "They will investigate every single allegation highlighted in the lessons learned report," said Kohona.
The U.N.'s secretary general's office declined to comment on Pillay's letter. But Martin Nesirky, Ban's chief spokesman, told reporters in a recent press briefing that Ban had no authority to reverse the appointment. "The selection of the members of the group is beyond the secretary general's purview," Nesirky said. "It's a matter for member states."
Human Rights Watch countered that, while the U.N.'s Asian governments are to blame for the appointment, the U.N. chief bears responsibility for fixing it.
"The responsibility for this puzzling appointment lays squarely with the Asia Group, but ultimately Ban Ki-moon established the panel and has to safeguard the reputation and credibility of the United Nations," Philippe Bolopion, the U.N. representative for Human Rights Watch, told Turtle Bay. "He was not part of the problem, but he need to be part of the solution."
The U.N. General Assembly asked Ban to assemble a senior advisory group to "consider rates of reimbursements" for U.N. peacekeepers. The rate of peacekeeping pay has been a source of mounting resentment among troop-contributing countries because the standard rate has not changed in many years.
The General Assembly mandated that the advisory group be comprised of "five eminent persons of relevant experience" appointed by the secretary general, five representatives from major troop-contributing countries, five representatives from major financial contributors to peacekeeping missions, and one representative for each of the U.N. regional groups.
The panel includes several prominent former U.N. officials, including Louise Frechette of Canada, a former U.N. deputy secretary general, and Jean Marie Guehenno of France, who previously served as the U.N.'s top peacekeeping official. Silva was selected by the Asia group.
In 2008-2009, the Sri Lankan government launched an all-out offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE), one of the world's most violent and ruthless insurgencies.
The operation, which centered on a Tamil stronghold in the Vanni region of Sri Lanka, succeeded in wiping out the armed movement in May 2009.
But the operation took a devastating toll on ethnic Tamil civilians, who were largely trapped between the rival forces. As many as 40,000 civilians died, most of them victims of indiscriminate shelling by Sri Lankan government forces, according to a U.N. panel established by the secretary general.
Silva commanded Sri Lanka's 58th division, which was directly involved in the final push to crush the LTTE. The panel does not specifically accuse Silva of engaging in atrocities, but it raises concern about the conduct of his troops.
"It is thus a reasonable conclusion that there is, at the very least, the appearance of a case of international crimes to answer by Mr. Silva," Pillay wrote. "I would this strongly encourage you and senior colleagues to convey as a matter of urgency the organization's request to the Asian Group that this nomination be reviewed.... Should diplomatic engagement fail to bear fruit, further steps may need to be considered."
"Peacekeeping service is a privilege attracting a heavy protection responsibility, rather than amounting to any form of entitlement or political reward, and credibly alleged human rights violations are sufficient basis to justify denial or termination of mission appointment of peacekeeping persons," she added. "The integrity of this principled position would be substantially undercut by the appointment of Mr. Silva."
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
Sri Lanka has offered to supply the U.N. with three Mi-24 attack helicopters and a pair of fix wing aircraft, a pledge that would help the U.N. meet a severe a shortfall in lethal combat equipment in places like Congo and Sudan and help protect civilians, U.N. based officials told Turtle Bay.
But the U.N. may not be able to accept them.
The Sri Lankan armed forces have come under scrutiny for allegedly committing mass atrocities during the final 2009 offensive against the country's separatists Tamil Tigers. A decision to accept the Sri Lankan offer would not only generate controversy but potentially trigger a U.S. review of Sri Lanka's human rights conduct.
Under the so-called Leahy law, written by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont)the State Department is required to vet the human rights records of foreign military contingents serving in U.N. peacekeeping missions, if there is reason to believe they may have been engaged in atrocities.
An independent panel, set up by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki moon, concluded in April that there are "credible allegations" that Sri Lanka troops, as well as the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. More than 40,000 civilians may have died in the war, most of them victims of indiscriminate government shelling, according to the U.N. panel.
The Sri Lanka pledge appears calculated to improve Sri Lanka's relationship with the United Nations at a time when it is facing mounting U.N. pressure to hold alleged war criminals within the army's ranks accountable for crimes, according to U.N. officials. It would certainly be harder, they say, to criticize Colombo if the organization was dependent on its air force for vital assets in combat.
Peacekeepers from other countries, including Rwanda, have faced scrutiny over alleged rights abuses. The Rwanda government threatened to withdraw its peacekeeping force from Darfur, Sudan, after the U.N. moved to force out a Rwandan commander, General Karake Karenzi, who was allegedly involved in rights abuses in Rwanda and eastern Congo during the mid to late 1990s. The United States backed Karenzi, despite internal U.S. government concerns about his rights record.
Sri Lanka has participated in U.N. peacekeeping operations for more than 50 years, and it currently has more than 1,200 blue helmets serving in U.N. missions. In his September 2010 address to the U.N. General Assembly, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaska, defended Sri Lanka's conduct during the war while affirming Sri Lanka's "willingness to further enhance our support to the U.N. Peacekeeping Operations."
"Our armed forces and the police are today combat tested, with a capacity to carry out their duties in the most challenging conditions."Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
India is preparing to withdraw its four remaining Mi-35 attack helicopters from the U.N. mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo early next month, ending years of Indian air superiority in the war-wracked Central African nation, and depriving the U.N. of its most vital military asset as the country heads into a landmark presidential election.
The Indian drawdown will deal a blow to the U.N. mission, known by its French acronym MONUSCO, which has depended on Indian troops and aircraft to ensure it can protect civilians and conduct humanitarian operations in a sprawling nation the size of Western Europe, and one with few roads.
But it also points to a growing reluctance by states to supply complex U.N. peacekeeping missions in places like Congo and Sudan with necessary and costly combat aircraft and other advanced logistical and communications equipment .
As the United States and other Western powers have retreated from U.N. peacekeeping over the past decade, India and a handful of other developing and emerging powers have filled the gap, supplying the U.N. with the bulk of its more than 100,000 peacekeepers needed to run the world's second-largest expeditionary force, after the U.S. military. India, however, has stood apart from other developing countries because of its capacity to deploy combat helicopters and other advanced military gear in Africa and the political will to use them.
India's decision to scale back its military commitment in Congo comes as France is preparing to introduce a Security Council resolution calling on the U.N. peacekeeping mission there to play a greater role in ensuring the protection of civilians in the months leading up to the election. But the absence of combat helicopters will limit the mission's ability to carry out such responsibilities, and may even force the U.N. to close some of its more remote outposts in eastern Congo, according to human rights activists and U.N. officials.
"I am obliged to note that [the U.N.'s] military operations are being negatively impacted by the shortage of military helicopters," Roger Meece, the U.N. Special Representative in Congo warned the Security Council last week. "This problem will become worse absent new contributions."
India's international identity has long been shaped by its role in U.N. peacekeeping, with more than 100,000 Indian troops having served in U.N. missions during the past 50 years. Today, India has over 8,500 peacekeepers in the field, more than twice as many as the U.N.'s five big powers combined. In supporting India's bid for a permanent seat on an enlarged Security Council last November, President Barack Obama cited "India's long history as a leading contributor to United Nations peacekeeping mission."
For now, New Delhi remains committed to keeping more than 4,000 uniformed personnel in Congo through the November election. But Indian officials has bridled at the lack of influence its contributions have been able to purchase at the United Nations, where its bid for a permanent seat on the Security Council appears stalled and where traditional powers like the United States, Britain, and France make all the important decisions on peacekeeping missions and get the most influential U.N. jobs.
Earlier this month, India rejected a request by Meece to extend the helicopter contract when it expires on July 4. U.N. officials said India has claimed it needs the helicopters to battle a resurgent Maoist guerrilla movement in eastern India. "India cannot be the only place in the world with attack helicopters," Manjeev Singh Puri, India's deputy ambassador, said in an interview. "We have capacity restraints."
The Indian drawdown comes as a gathering of large troop contributors, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Uruguay, have reached a deadlock with the world's wealthiest donors over how much money is needed to run the U.N.'s 15 peacekeeping operations.
The budget standoff threatens to upend an informal arrangement that requires rich countries to pay most of the costs of peacekeeping, while poorer countries supply the troops. Uruguay, which already withdrew one CASA-212 fixed-wing airplane from Haiti in April, has threatened to withdraw nearly 1,300 troops from Congo, according to Security Council diplomats and U.N. officials.
"There is a huge mismatch between the mandates the Security Council gives the peacekeeping missions and the resources they are willing to provide: the rich countries are the worst offenders," Anneke Van Woudenberg, the senior Congo researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Turtle Bay. "Where are the Europeans? Where is the United States? Where are the Canadians?"
The Non-aligned Movement (NAM), which represents the vast majority of troop-contributing states, is suggesting that countries that supply peacekeepers receive more money in the 2012 peacekeeping budget, including a 57 percent increase in peacekeepers' salaries. The increase, they note, would essentially reflect the increase in inflation since 1991, the last time peacekeeping rates were raised
But they have confronted resistance from industrial powers who say that the financial crisis has strained their national treasuries, making it impossible to consider raising salaries. The Europeans in particular have complained that emerging economic powerhouses like Brazil and India, who pay respectively 1.6 percent and .5 percent of the U.N.'s administrative budget, and even less for peacekeeping costs, should pay more.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, has sought to address Indian demands for more influence in top decision-making positions. One of his first appointments was the former Indian diplomat, Vijay Nambiar, as his chief of staff. More recently, the United Nations has appointed an Indian force commander, Lt. General Chander Prakash, to lead the mission in Congo; Indian Maj General Abhijit Guha was made the U.N.'s second rank military advisor; and a former Indian diplomat, Atul Khare, was promoted to spearhead the U.N.'s reform agenda. Ban also appointed an Indian national, Lakshmi Puri, a well-regarded U.N. veteran who is also the wife of India's U.N. ambassador, Hardeep Singh Puri, as deputy executive of the U.N.'s new super agency for women's rights.
The story of India's drawdown in Congo, documented in a series of previously unpublished U.S. diplomatic cables obtained through WikiLeaks, displays the newly ascendant power's heightened diplomatic sensitivity. India believes it is not accorded the respect it deserves on the world stage, and thinks its reputation has been tarnished in the Congo mission.
Indian troops in Congo have been accused of corruption, sexual misconduct, falling short in their obligation to protect civilians from violent militias, and showing favoritism towards anti-government rebels, according to the U.S. cables.
India's mission in Congo hit a low point in 2008, when a tipsy Indian military colonel, at the end of his deployment in the country, was tape-recorded delivering a farewell toast to Laurent Nkunda, commander of a rebel force that had repeatedly trounced government troops, but had been badly bloodied in confrontations with the Indian peacekeepers.
"Clearly elated over his return home (a state of mind undoubtedly made more intense by the many drinks he imbibed at the event) the colonel lauded Nkunda in his good-bye statement as a worthy opponent," according to the U.S. cable.
When the Security Council voted to increase the number of U.N. peacekeepers in Nov. 2008 -- a period marked by an upsurge in violence around the eastern Congolese city of Goma -- the Congolese government said it didn't want any more Indian peacekeepers, according to another U.S. cable and an Indian official.
Infuriated at the slight, India threatened to pull out all of its troops, as well as 23 transport and attack helicopters, a move that would have crippled the mission. The rift played into the hands of Congolese hardliners who used the controversy to try to force the U.N. out of Congo. At one stage, government officials paid crowds to hurl stones at the Indian peacekeepers, according to a U.S. cable.
"It seems the [Government of India] has determined it has no desire to continue placing its troops in harms way in a country where they are not wanted," said one U.S. cable "A withdrawal of Indians troops and helicopter assets would be absolutely devastating to MONUC ability to carry out its mandate."
In early 2009, the United States tried to coax the Congolese leadership to patch up relations with India, and to offer public expressions of appreciation for the role the Indians were playing in Congo. Finally, President Joseph Kabila wrote a letter to the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh thanking India for its contribution to peace and asking it to stay.
New Delhi dropped its plans to withdraw its troops, but Indian diplomats put the U.N. on notice that it would gradually withdraw its helicopters. Several countries, including South Africa, Ukraine, and Argentina, have expressed interest in providing replacement aircraft. But the U.N. has been unable to secure firm commitments, leaving the U.N. mission without its most powerful military asset.
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
After months of discrete campaigning, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki moon will formally announce Monday that he will seek a second five-year term at the head of the world premier diplomatic organization, according to U.N. diplomats familiar with the plan.
Ban will outline his plans in a breakfast Monday with representatives of the Asia Group, a bloc of Asian and Middle East countries, before holding a press conference to publicly announce his intention to serve out another term when his mandate expires on December 31. Ban's team is hoping to secure support for his bid from the 15-nation U.N. Security Council and the U.N. General Assembly by June 21.
U.N. diplomats say that it's all but certain that Ban, who faces no competition for the job, will easily be approved for a second term. During the past several months, he has traveled to key capitals, including Beijing, Moscow and Washington, to shore up backing.
Throughout much of his first term Ban has faced intense criticism from political observers, top aides, and human rights advocates, who see him as too timid to confront the world's worst rights abusers, and too willing to accommodate the world's major powers.
Last summer, Foreign Policy's columnist, James Traub, counseled that "States that care about the United Nations - and above all, the United States - should prevent him from doing further harm to the institution by ensuring that he does not serve a second term."
But Ban has successfully secured support from the countries that count, the permanent five members of the council - the United States, Russia, France, China and Britain - that possess the power to block any UN chief. And Ban has received some praise in recent months for his outspoken support for pro-democracy demonstrators in the Arab world, including in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Yemen.
After his announcement, Ban plans to write to member states to inform them of his intention and seek their support. He will also make his case to other U.N regional groups. Ban has long hinted that he would seek the U.N. top office for a second term, telling the Agence France Press just last month that "I am willing to make myself available."And he has scheduled much of his travel over the past six months to ensure visits to the capitals of key members.
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna's visit last week to the United Nations was supposed to provide New Delhi with an opportunity to shine on the world stage, to show that India is a serious emerging power that deserves to sit with other world powers. It didn’t quite turn out that way.
Krishna, in his first appearance before the U.N. Security Council since his country began a two-year stint in January as a temporary member of the U.N. security body, read the wrong speech. For three minutes, Krishna read from the official statement of the foreign minister of Portugal, Luis Amado, noting with a gracious smile his "satisfaction regarding the happy coincidence of having two members of the Portuguese speaking countries" addressing the 15-nation council." (See the video: Krishna begans at 1:08:10)
gaffe has fueled calls from India's opposition politicians to have Krishna step
down, saying his mistake has brought "shame" to India at a time when it is
trying to prove to the world that it is a serious player on the world stage.
The mistake occurred after Amado, who spoke before Krishna, decided to ditch his speech in favor of extemporaneous remarks on the theme of the council debate: the connection between social development and security. Copies of his official speech, however, were circulated to the council's members, including one copy that landed on top of Krishna's speech.
In all fairness, it is often tough to tell the difference between the standard speeches delivered before the U.N. Security Council. The Portuguese statement sounded off familiar themes that could have been read by virtually any delegation. For instance, it noted that it "is impossible to implement effective poverty reduction strategies" in a place wracked by political chaos and violence. It underscored the importance of meeting the Millennium Development Goals -- a series of internationally accepted health and poverty benchmarks aimed at eliminating poverty -- in order to spur economic development in the Third World.
It was not until Krishna highlighted the importance of coordination between the United Nations and the European Union that the Indian delegation grew suspicious. India's U.N. ambassador, Hardeep Singh Puri, approached Krishna, slid the Portuguese text off his pile of paper, and instructed him to read the Indian statement buried beneath it. "OK," a puzzled Krishna said before asking: "I have to start all over again?" Without so much as a pause, or a recognition of the gaffe, Krishna started again, beginning with a reference to Mahatma Gandhi's famous line "poverty is the worst form of violence." You'd think -- that if he had taken the time to glance at his speech before reading it -- he would have noticed the omission.
As for Krishna, he suggested the slip-up could have happened to anyone. "There was nothing wrong in it," he told the Press Trust of India. "There were so many papers spread in front of me, so by mistake the wrong speech was taken out."
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
*Update, 11:37 a.m., Feb. 14, 2011: This quote was corrected along with corrections of misspelled names and typographical errors.
Sri Lanka has cut off direct talks with a U.N. panel set up in June to promote accountability for war crimes during the final stages of the country's bloody 2009 offensive against Tamil separatists, U.N. officials told Turtle Bay.
The panel had been planning a trip to Colombo to question senior officials responsible for addressing massive rights violations during the conflict, but that visit is now unlikely.
Sri Lanka's deputy U.N. ambassador, Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva, who commanded troops during the war, wrote to the office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this month to say that going forward his government would only hold talks with Ban's advisors, not with the panel investigating war crimes. U.N. officials say they fear Sri Lanka's action, which comes one month after Sri Lanka's U.N. ambassador, Palitha Kohona, invited the panel to Colombo, may be calculated to run down the clock on talks on a visit until the panel's mandate expires at the end of February.
The dispute centers on the terms under which the visit would take place. Sri Lanka has agreed to a visit by the U.N. panel on the condition that its activities be limited to testifying before the Sri Lanka Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, which was set up by President Mahinda Rajapaksa last year to address the conflict and promote reconciliation between the country's ruling Sinhalese and minority Tamils. The panel has demanded broader freedom to talk to a range of Sri Lankan officials.
President Rajapaksa agreed to invite the panel to Sri Lanka during a meeting with Ban in New York along the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly debate last September, Sri Lanka's U.N. envoy, Palitha Kohona, told Turtle Bay. "The understanding at that point was the panel will come to Sri Lanka and make representations to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission," he said. Kohona claimed the panel has sought to unilaterally "expand the scope of that understanding." U.N. officials have privately challenged Kohona's account of Ban's agreement with Rajapaksa, saying Ban did not agree to limiting the scope of the panel's activities in Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan army mounted a brutal military offensive in 2009 against the country's rebel Tamil Tigers, decisively defeating the 33-year-old separatist insurgency that pioneered the use of suicide bombers and assassinated a Sri Lankan president, Ranasinghe Premadasa, in 1993 and former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.
In their last stand, the separatist Tamil Tigers embedded themselves in a displaced community of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tamil civilians, forcing them to serve as human shields. The Sri Lankan military, meanwhile, fired indiscriminately into crowds of civilians, killing as many as 30,000.
Human rights groups fear that Sri Lanka's successful, though highly brutal, military campaign will become a model for other governments seeking to crush insurgencies. They have pressed Ban to ensure that Sri Lankan war criminals are held accountable.
Ban exacted a pledge from Rajapaksa in May 2009 to ensure that war criminals on both sides of the conflict be held accountable. The government has since set up the Lessons Learnt Commission to promote reconciliation between the Tamils and Sinhalese, but the commission has been criticized by human rights groups and foreign dignitaries as inadequate.
Frustrated with the lack of progress, Ban established a three-member panel in June to advise him on how to ensure rights violators are held accountable for possible war crimes. In a statement, Ban said the panel hoped to cooperate with Sri Lankan officials in Sri Lanka.
The panel is chaired by Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia, Yasmin Sooka of South Africa, and Steven Ratner of the United States. It has a mandate to examine "the modalities, applicable international standards and comparative experience with regard to accountability processes, taking into account the nature and scope of any alleged violations in Sri Lanka." It is also supposed to advise Sri Lanka on ensuring Sri Lankan war criminals are held accountable.
Sri Lanka initially accused Ban of exceeding his authority and refused to provide the panel members with visas to enter the country. Sri Lankan authorities are concerned that the panel, which will produce a report with recommendations, may call for the establishment of a commission of inquiry, a frequent first step before an international prosecution.
In July, Sri Lanka's minister for housing and construction, Wimal Weerawansa, led a group of pro-government protesters that ringed the U.N.'s Colombo headquarters, harassing U.N. employees, preventing staffers from entering and exiting the U.N. compound, and burning U.N. Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon in effigy. Sri Lanka officials essentially ignored the panel's repeated requests for visas to travel to Colombo.
But in December, Sri Lanka's U.N. ambassador, Palitha Kohona, invited the panel to lunch and offered an invitation to visit Colombo. A subsequent letter made it clear that the panel's visit would be restricted to sharing their views on accountability before the Lessons Learned Commission: They would not be permitted to question the commission or conduct interviews with key Sri Lankan officials, including the attorney general, responsible for pursuing justice in the case.
"The Sri Lankan mission had initially indicated they would be amenable to the panel meeting with it to make whatever representations it may wish to make, but it seems now that such a visit has still not been decided," said a senior U.N. official. "I am not sure if this is a simple matter of the Sri Lankan side prevaricating. The panel is nevertheless open and keen on any appropriate interaction with the LLC."
"The Sri Lankans have sought to keep their interaction through the secretariat, specifically the EOSG [the executive office of the secretary general]," the official said. "We have, however, been asking them and the panel to deal with each other directly and shall continue to do so."
(H/T to Inner City Press, which referred to Sri Lankan reversal in this Jan. 18 post)
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
Haiti: U.N. Cholera Probe
The United Nations will establish an "independent" panel to try to determine the source of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, Bloomberg reported. The U.N. has resisted such a probe, arguing that it is more important to focuses resources on preventing the spread of cholera, which has already killed more than 2,000 people and hospitalized more than 44,000. But the organization has faced criticism that it is seeking to cover up possible links to a Nepalese battalion of U.N. peacekeepers.
The United States, France and African governments have warned Ivory Coast's long time ruler, Laurent Gbagbo, that he must step down from power within days or face stiff sanctions, Reuters reported. Western and African governments believe that opposition leader Alassane Ouattara won the country's recent election. The ultimatum comes as government and rebel forces clashed today.
President Barack Obama on Thursday reversed course and endorsed the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which recognizes the cultural and property rights of native Americans and other indigenous communities, the Associated Press reported. The U.S. voted against the declaration when the U.N. General Assembly adopted it in 2007, arguing that it was incompatible with U.S. laws.
The U.N. Security Council met to register their concern about the prospects for violence in the upcoming independence referendum in South Sudan, according to the Voice of America, while the U.N.'s top peacekeeping official, Alain Le Roy, said that the U.N. peacekeeping force would not be enough to protect civilians in the event of a resumption of civil war.
The White House today announced that Brooke Anderson, the U.N.-based U.S. ambassador for special political affairs, will serve as new chief of staff for the national security council.
Anderson previously worked as the chief of staff for Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, before being promoted to the U.N. ambassadorial post, which bears responsibility for Security Council affairs, U.N. peacekeeping and non-proliferation matters.
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
The Indian foreign ministry has once again expressed concern about what it views as inappropriate airport searches of its senior U.S.-based diplomats after its envoy to the U.N., Hardeep Singh Puri, was briefly detained at an airport in Austin, Texas, for refusing to remove his turban, U.N.-based diplomats told Turtle Bay.
This morning's disclosure of the November 13 incident in the Indian press follows previous Indian complaints over the treatment of India's U.S. ambassador, Meera Shankar, who was given a pat down earlier this month at a Mississippi airport despite her claims of diplomatic immunity.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, expressed regret over that incident. "We obviously are concerned about it," she told reporters last week. "We will be looking into it and trying to determine both what happened, and what we could do to prevent such incidents in the future."
U.S. officials said that while foreign diplomats enjoy diplomatic immunity during their official assignments in the country they are subject to the intrusive security searches imposed by the Transportation Security Administration. But the practice had led airport security officers to target individuals that wear national garb. Shankar was reportedly singled out because she was dressed in an Indian Sari.
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also wears a turban, which is an integral part of Sikh males' religious, social and cultural identity. Sikh men, who do not cut their hair, are obliged to wear them in public. After the 911 terror attacks, U.S. authorities have sought to compel some Sikhs not to wear their turbans for official duty. A New York City Transit cop sued New York City after he was removed from his beat after refusing to remove his turban while on duty. He won the case.
Airport security agents in Austin pulled Singh aside into a an enclosed glass holding room for questioning after he refused a request to remove his turban or allow inspectors to touch it, an Indian official who witnessed the incident told Turtle Bay. "He said no, you cannot check my turban," according to the Indian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I won't allow you to touch my turban."
The Indian official said Singh offered to touch the turban himself and to allow the security agents to run a check of his hands for traces of explosives, but he said that one security official refused. Singh insisted that the security official had no right to check his turban, citing TSA regulations for searches of foreign diplomats. "Obviously you don't know your own rules. Please check your rules," he told the security agent, according to the Indian official. "The person insisted that he had to do it. He said, 'Don't tell me the rules.'"
The Indian official said that the security officials finally checked the security regulations and issued an apology to the Indian ambassador. He said he was unaware of whether his government had filed an official complaint with the United States over the issue.
A spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, Mark Kornblau, declined to comment on the specifics of the incident but said the U.S. regretted his treatment."We have a great deal of respect for Amb. Puri and regret any inconvenience this may have caused."
(Update: In an interview with Press Trust of India, Puri sought to dampen the controversy by saying he had not been physically patted down, and that he believed the airport security guards were simply doing their jobs. “No pat down took place,” he said. “I said I would comply with the procedures but did not allow him to touch my turban. The guard was unaware of the new procedures so I told him to go check with his superior officer. The important thing here is that I did not let them touch my turban.”)
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
In July, Lakhdar Brahimi, the former Algerian foreign minister and U.N. trouble-shooter in Afghanistan and Iraq, returned for the first time in several years to Kabul, where nearly a decade earlier he had helped establish a government after the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban.
This time, Brahimi was part of a private, high-level delegation, which included Thomas Pickering, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Jean-Marie Guehenno, the French former chief of the U.N. peacekeeping department, that is preparing a weighty study for the Century Foundation on the end-game to the current conflict in Afghanistan. They also visited other key countries, including India and Pakistan.
Brahimi's return to the scene comes as the United States, Afghanistan and some factions of the Taliban have discussed commencing talks that might eventually strike a peace deal. The timing has fueled speculation that Brahimi, who lives in Paris, might be pulled from retirement to again become a U.N. envoy to Afghanistan to help mediate a political settlement between Karzai's government and the Taliban, a pact that would set the stage for a U.S. military withdrawal from the country.
One U.N.-based official said that Brahimi had been approached by the Americans and asked whether he might consider a U.N. role in Afghanistan. He responded that he would only entertain the prospect of a mediation role if he was confident he had the full backing of the U.S. government -- something he apparently doesn't have, the official said.
In fact, U.S officials have never really stopped seeking Brahimi's counsel on Afghanistan. Bob Woodward, in his book Obama's Wars, wrote that top U.S. officials were mulling the possible need for a prominent foreigner -- a "philosopher king," in Woodward's words -- to help mediate a political deal. "One possible candidate was Lakhdar Brahimi, the elderly United Nations diplomat who had helped engineer Karzai's rise to power after the U.S. invasion in 2001," Woodward wrote. "Could he deliver this? Brahimi was 76, perhaps too old for the monumental diplomatic mission."
But some seemed to take the prospect very seriously. Staffan di Mistura, the Italian-Swedish diplomat who currently heads up the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, traveled to New York during the U.N. General Assembly debate in September to kill off any idea of appointing an independent envoy to Afghanistan to lead the U.N. mediation efforts, according to three sources familiar with the visit.
Di Mistura said that he didn't oppose the appointment of a U.N. mediator, the three sources said, but he wanted it to be someone who served under his own instructions.
"Staffan is naturally concerned about a unified line of command as long as he is SRSG [the Secretary General's special representative]," according to a U.N. official. He also raised concerns that the Taliban would not accept Brahimi as an interlocutor, according to one of the U.N.-based sources.
Sources close to Brahimi said that the aging diplomat has no ambitions to return to Afghanistan, but that he might serve if he felt his services were needed, and he felt confident about the prospects of a deal. They said that his work on behalf of the Century Foundation is not aimed at positioning him to play a role in Afghanistan.
For the time being, Di Mistura seems to have prevailed -- in part because Richard C. Holbrooke, President Obama's envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Gen. David Petraeus, who has worked closely with Di Mistura in both Iraq and Afghanistan, are not keen on relinquishing control of political talks to Brahimi, according to U.N. officials.
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
A prominent U.S. contractor in Afghanistan may have inadvertently funneled millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer dollars to Taliban insurgents in the form of bribes and protection money, according to a review by the inspector general of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The suspected payments were allegedly made by Afghan subcontractors of Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), a company based in Bethesda, Maryland that carries out USAID reconstruction projects in some of Afghanistan's most remote and risky war zones. Afghan representatives of the company in Jalalabad are also under investigation for charging kickbacks to Afghan companies in exchange for USAID contracts, according to the report.
A spokesman for the company said that it has fired 17 Afghan employees who operated at or near the company's Jalalabad office, and restored greater international auditing and oversight over the operations.
"We're doing outstanding, mission-critical development work right at the tip of the spear, and we're proud of it," said DAI President and CEO James Boomgard. "And DAI is leading the way in addressing those problems. Without giving up on our commitment to support U.S. Government efforts even in the most unstable regions of Afghanistan, we have, when necessary, closed down projects entirely, stopped working in problem areas, fired employees -- and done so in a very public, very accountable way, not through the back door -- and continually tightened monitoring and accounting procedures."
The review began with an examination of the costs of a British security company, Edinburgh International, on three USAID projects operated by Development Alternatives. The report found "no indication that Edinburgh International had misused funds to pay the Taliban or others in exchange for protection," noting that it had "employed a strong system of controls over cash transactions."
However, U.S. and DAI officials "expressed concerns that insurgents may have extorted protection payments" amounting to as much $5.2 million in 2009 from Afghan representatives carrying out projects in remote areas under the USAID-funded Local Governance and Community Development program.
The program is designed to show residents in contested regions of Afghanistan that the U.S.-backed government is capable of providing basic services. An indication of the dangers of working in the region, DAI officials said, came Sunday, when a female British employee of the company, together with three Afghan nationals, were abducted between Jalalabad and Kunar province.
While the report does not assert that DAI's international officials paid any money to the Taliban, it cites lax oversight, noting that many projects are subjected to virtually no monitoring. "Neither USAID nor DAI could provide reasonable assurance of preventing USAID funds from going to the Taliban or others in exchange for protection while trying to implement community development projects in a war zone and in insurgency stronghold areas where little or no monitoring can be conducted," the report stated.
In response to the report, USAID's Afghanistan director, Earl W. Gast, said the U.S. agency has instructed DAI to tighten up its financial controls, but he vowed to continue the program in contested areas, noting that it is "designed to turn communities away from the insurgency and towards the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan."
"The core operational aspects of the program include working in unstable areas that pose risk," he added. "USAID is accountable for deploying its stabilization programs and field staff as far forward as possible in partnership with our U.S. civil military partners on the ground, to contribute to ultimate victory over the insurgency."
Gastquestioned the strength of some of the evidence the Inspector General has presented to demonstrate that the practices are endemic in USAID programs, and he said the Inspector General did not provide supporting documentation for its allegations that fraud occurred in Jalalabad."This report riddled with ‘may haves', ‘likelies' and ‘mights'," said Steven O'Connor, a spokesman for DAI. "It's all very speculative." The Inspector General's report countered that it does not release evidence that could compromise ongoing fraud investigations.
The Inspector General's probe was triggered after a series of online and newspaper articles -- including this piece in Global Post -- documented the diversion of millions of dollars in U.S. aid money to the Taliban. But DAI insisted that it took the initiative in bringing the corruption case in Jalalabad to the attention of the investigators. "Where there are problems or suspected problems," said Boomgard, "it is DAI that has brought them to USAID's and the Inspector General's attention -- showing collaboration that has been, in their words, ‘superb.'"
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
Last week, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon took Pakistan to the diplomatic equivalent of the woodshed, organizing a high-level New York disarmament conference where foreign ministers and other dignitaries excoriated Islamabad for blocking international negotiations aimed at banning the production of nuclear weapons fuel.
Ban's decision to convene the conference reflected widespread frustration that Pakistan has paralyzed one of the world's principal arms control forums, the U.N. Conference on Disarmament, at a time when the United States is showing a renewed interest in striking new disarmament deals there. Pakistan, which did not speak at the New York meeting, maintains that it needs to reserve the right to produce nuclear weapons fuel to catch up with its atomic rival, India, which it believes possesses a larger stockpile.
In response to Pakistan's blocking action at the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the United States and several other states said last week that it may be time to bypass the Geneva-based arms control forum, which has negotiated some of the most important arms control treaties, including the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The disarmament conference, which has 65 member states, has not held formal negotiations in 12 years. But in his landmark April, 2009, Prague speech on nuclear disarmament, President Obama sought to revive the negotiating forum, calling for the resumption of negations on a Fissile Material Cut Treaty (FMCT).
A month later, the conference approved a work program in May 2009 to begin negotiations on the FMCT, and to begin talks on other issues including nuclear disarmament, the prohibition of nuclear weapons in outer space, and on the provision of assurances not to launch a nuclear strike against non-nuclear powers. But Pakistan has single-handedly blocked negotiations.
"We were ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work on the complicated and difficult negotiations for an FMCT," Gary Samore, President Obama's special assistant on nuclear disarmament, told the U.N. conference Friday. "Unfortunately, it was not to be. Instead, a single country -- a good friend of the United States -- changed its mind and has blocked the CD from implementing its work plan."
The idea of a treaty banning the production of fissile material -- or nuclear weapon fuel-- dates back to the early days of the U.S. and Soviet atomic arms race. The United States, Russia, Britain and France have already announced that they have stopped the production of fissile material, according to Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. Kimball said that China, and Israel, are also believed to have stopped production of fissile material, but have not announced it. But Pakistan and India are believed to be continuing their production of it. "Pakistan is adamant. They continue producing fissile material because they feel they are behind the Indians," he said.
The advantage of negotiating a treaty within the U.N. Conference on Disarmament is that it is the only arms control body that brings together all of the world's nuclear powers. But ten states -- Australia, Austria, Norway, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United States, and Uruguay -- have said publicly that the time is nearing to try something new, either by abandoning the conference's current form or beginning negotiations in the U.N. General Assembly.
"If we cannot begin these negotiations in the CD, then we will need to consider other options," Samore said. "In any event, it is time to get back to work. The treaty is too important to allow the CD's dysfunction and the interests of one state to dictate the pace of progress on disarmament."
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi presented the U.N.'s members with a stark challenge: Help Pakistan recover from its most devastating natural disaster in modern history or run the risk of surrendering a key front in the war on terror.
"This disaster has hit us hard at a time, and in areas, where we are in the midst of fighting a war against extremists and terrorists," Qureshi warned foreign delegates, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, at a U.N. donor's conference on the Pakistani flood. "If we fail, it could undermine the hard won gains made by the government in our difficult and painful war against terrorism. We cannot allow this catastrophe to become an opportunity for the terrorists."
Qureshi provided one of his darkest assessments to date of the political, economic and security costs of Pakistan's floods, which have placed more than 20 million people in need of assistance, destroyed more than 900,000 homes and created financial losses of over $43 billion. "We are the people that the international community looks towards, as a bulwark against terrorism and extremism," he said, adding that Pakistan "now looks towards the international community to show a similar determination and humanity in our hour of need."
The blunt speech was part of a broader effort by Pakistan, the United Nations, the United States and its military allies in the region to goad the international community into stepping up funding for the relief effort, which has been severely underfunded. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged an additional $60 million to the U.N. flood relief in Pakistan, bringing the total U.S. contribution to $150 million. Britain's development minister, Andrew Mitchell, pledged an additional $33 million, saying that the pace of funding for has been "woefully inadequate."
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who recently visited the flood disaster region, also sought to dramatize the extraordinary nature of the floods, which have inundated 20 percent of Pakistan, an area larger than Italy. Ban said more people have been affected by the flood than the combined populations hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami, Cyclone Nargis, and the Haitian earthquake. "Pakistan is facing a slow-motion tsunami; its destructive power will accumulate and grow with time," Ban told U.N. delegates. "At least 160,000 square kilometers of land is under water -- an area larger than more than half the countries of the world."
"We have never seen anything like this before. 1919, I'm told was a mega flood. This far exceeds that," Qureshi told a gathering of diplomats, investors, journalists and Pakistani-Americans at a discussion on the flood at the Asia Society.
Qureshi, who was joined by Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, singled out the United States for leading the international effort to respond to the worst natural calamity in modern history. "Thank you America," said Qureshi, noting that ordinary Pakistanis recognized the role that the United States has played since the floods struck. "You have contributed significantly; you have shown the world that you are a caring nation."
He also thanked George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist, who announced plans today to allocate $5 million -- more money than the vast majority of foreign countries contributing to the flood response -- to a Pakistan democracy program he runs to help those in need. The InterAsian Development Bank also announced it would make $2 billion in low interest loans over the next two years to help pave the way to a massive reconstruction effort.
Today's pledges moved the U.N. closer to raising the nearly $460 million it is seeking to fund relief operations over the next six months. The fund raising effort has drawn criticism of many of Pakistan's closest allies, including oil rich sheikdoms like Saudi Arabia and China, which have provided only a trickle of aid to the U.N.-led relief effort."I think the Chinese should step up to the plate," Holbrooke said in a briefing with a handful of reporters. "They always say Pakistan is their closest ally."
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, which has faced sharp criticism for its slow response, announced that it will pledge about $105 million in assistance, most of it in the form of relief supplies. Only about $5 million will be provided in cash to the Pakistan National Disaster Management Authority. None is earmarked for the U.N.'s relief efforts. The European Union has also increased its funding commitment by $39 million to about $90 million. Several other countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, also made new contributions today.
But Qureshi defended his country's allies, saying that Saudi Arabia has been sending relief planes into Pakistan ever since the flood began and that China has stepped in to provide life-saving assistance to more than 27,000 Pakistanis who live near the Chinese border. "They have never let us down in the past and I don't expect them to let us down now," he said of China.
Qureshi and Holbrooke said they were acutely aware that the Pakistani floods could have massive strategic implications for their countries' security interests in the region, but insisted that, for now, their main focus was on saving lives. Holbrooke also made it clear that the U.S. saw the flood as an opportunity to showcase American generosity, saying he and other top U.S. diplomats had developed a slogan. "We want to be the first in, with the most assistance," he said.
Qureshi acknowledged criticism that the Pakistan government was slow to respond in the initial days of the flood. "Initially there was shock and paralysis but we are now getting our act together," he said. "We've been struck by this national calamity; we will face it and we will muster the resources and get out of this."
Follow Me on Twitter @columlynch
The Obama administration has decided to press for the establishment of a U.N. commission of inquiry to probe allegations of human rights abuses by Burma's military regime, marking a retreat from earlier American efforts to engage the reclusive government.
The decision reflects mounting frustration that nearly two years of diplomatic outreach, including several visits by senior American diplomats to Burma, have failed to persuade the country's military ruler, Senior Leader Than Shwe, to release Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, from house arrest or to allow the political opposition to participate in the country's upcoming election.
Two senior U.S. officials said the Obama administration reached its decision following a lengthy internal review of U.S. policy toward Burma. They also insist that the move is consistent with the U.S. policy of engagement with Burma. "We don't see diplomacy as a reward: it's a tool that we hope will have results," according to one of the officials.
The official said the decision to push for a commission of inquiry reflects a judgment that there is merit in allegations of mass crimes by the Burmese military, that Suu Kyi's political party supports such a commission, and that the Burmese government failed to "come forward with steps to bring progress towards democracy." It also reflected mounting Congressional calls for tougher action against the Burmese regime.
Burma, which is also known as Myanmar, has announced a November 7 date for the country's first election in 20 years. But it has ignored appeals from the United States, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and others to release Suu Kyi and more than 2000 other political prisoners and to allow the country's political opposition leaders to vie for votes. Critics say that the election will consolidate military rule in Burma.
At least 40 political parties have registered to participate in the elections, although several are believed to represent the interests of the military. The National League for Democracy, which was founded by Suu Kyi, who won a landslide 1990 victory that was annulled by the military, will not take part in the elections. It was not allowed to participate in the election unless it agreed to expel Suu Kyi from the party, a step it refused to take.
The move comes several months after the U.N.'s special rapporteur for Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana of Argentina, issued a highly critical report of Burma's human rights record in March, citing evidence of the mass killing, torture, forced displacement, rape and displacement of Burma's ethnic groups over the past decades. "The U.N. institutions may consider the possibility to establish a commission of inquiry...to address the question of international crimes," according to his report.
The Obama administration initially indicated it would consider lending U.S. support for a resolution in the U.N. Human Rights Council establishing such a commission. But it has now decided to actively support the initiative, according to an official familiar with the deliberations. One source briefed on the deal said that the Obama administration had not abandoned its engagement strategy against Burma, but that it had decided to provide the regime with an incentive to reconsider its position.
There are various options for setting up a commission of inquiry. The United States could introduce a resolution establishing such a commission before the U.N. Human Rights Council, which will convene next month. Washington could also press the U.N. General Assembly to pass a resolution establishing it, or it could appeal to Ban Ki-moon to do it under his own authority. Such inquiries can often lead to war crimes prosecutions.
"We have been disappointed in the results of the dialogue to date," according to the administration official. The Burmese government "has very clearly chosen to proceed ahead with an election we feel lacks central ingredients that would lead to international legitimacy."
The officials said that they would begin a long consultation with European and Asian governments to determine what the next steps should be, but they cautioned that the pursuit of justice in this case could play out for years, citing the case of Cambodia, where war crimes prosecutions were carried out decades after Cambodia's Khmer Rouge carried out mass killings.
The official believes there is "merit" in Quintana's allegations of "repeated and very serious allegations of internal actions that require further investigation." It's an early stage of inquiry, the official said, but he said they would examine "persistent chronic incidents and outrages that have spread over the course of a generation."
"The problem with the engagement strategy is not that it's the wrong strategy it's that the Burmese haven't shown much interest in engaging back," said Tom Malinowski, the advocacy director in Human Rights Watch's Washington office. The plan here is to "give people around [Than Shwe] reason to question his defiance of the international community, and whether his might not be serving their interests."
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch.
Faced with simultaneous natural disasters, the U.N.'s chief relief coordinator John Holmes sought to jar the world's governments into focusing attention on the massive flooding in Pakistani, saying it has affected more than 14 million people, more than any other natural catastrophe in recent history.
Holmes and Pakistan's U.N. ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon sought to dramatize the massive scale of the flooding as part of a public relations campaign to raise $460 million from foreign governments to respond to the crisis. In a joint press conference, they said Pakistan's worst flood in 80 years has killed at least 1,200 people, destroyed thousands of villages, washed out several hundred bridges and wiped out a huge portion of the country's cotton and wheat crops.
"It's like going back to primordial history," Haroun told reporters.
The presentation underscored the challenges of translating international sympathy for victims of far-flung major humanitarian crisis into cash, particularly at a time when massive fires have struck Russia, and flooding and landslides have killed several hundred in China. Many U.S. relief agencies are continuing to provide basic relief for the victims of the worst earthquake to Haiti in 200 years.
Holmes said the impact of the rains in Pakistan will only worsen with monsoon conditions expected to continue for another month. He expressed concern that a shortage of clean water, sanitation, and medical care could lead to spread of deadly water born diseases, including diarrhea.
"The destruction is not over -- far from it," Holmes warned donor states, who have already pledged about $150 million to relief efforts. "The flood wave now continues its way through the southern Sindh province, where millions more are expected to suffer...The monsoon could last for another month."
Please Follow Me on Twitter @columlynch
The U.N. Security Council has removed five former Taliban members, including two dead men and the Islamic movement's former ambassadors to Pakistan and the United Nations, from a U.N. terrorist blacklist, a move aimed at signaling to Taliban insurgents that they will be rewarded for putting down their weapons.
The action represents a modest diplomatic achievement for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has pressed the international community to lift sanctions on 137 members of the former Taliban government in an effort to prod the insurgents into peace talks with the government. It also reflects willingness by Russia, which opposes any role for the Taliban in a future government, to lift travel and financial sanctions on former Taliban leaders who have put down their arms.
It was more than a decade ago that the U.N. Security Council first imposed sanctions on members of the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan at the time, for refusing to surrender Osama bin Laden to U.S. authorities in connection with al Qaeda's role in the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. In January 2001, more than 100 Taliban leaders were added to the list. The list was expanded after the September 11, 2001, attacks, to include al Qaeda members and their supporters. The measures include a travel ban, an arms embargo, and a prohibition on the direct or indirect provision of funds or economic resources.
The move follows a major U.N. review of the sanctions list, which after today's action includes 489 individuals and entities, including 257 al Qaeda members and backers. It also comes weeks after Richard Holbrooke, President Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, traveled to New York to meet with diplomats from Russia and Austria, which oversees the Security Council committee responsible for delisting Taliban members. Holbrooke urged them to make progress on the delisting process in order to help boost peace prospects in Afghanistan.
The Security Council lifted an asset freeze and travel ban on Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad Awrang, who served as the Taliban's ambassador before the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, and Abdul Salam Zaeef, the public voice of the Taliban in the months leading up to the U.S. invasion. Zaeef, who was serving as the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, was handed over to American authorities and transferred to Guantánamo Bay detention facility, where he stayed until 2005.
In his memoir, My Life with the Taliban, Zaeef, a 42-year-old founding member of the Taliban, recounts a life of militancy dating back to the Soviet resistance in 1980s. He claims that he was sold by Pakistani intelligence officials to U.S. operatives in 2002. He was released in 2005 without being charged with a crime. He has since lived in Kabul under government protection.
Mujahid Muhammad Awrang , the Taliban's former U.N. representative, served as the movement's main contact with the United States and other western governments. Operating out of an office in Queens, Mujahid met frequently with the Clinton administration's under secretary of state for South Asian affairs, Rick Inderfurth.
Three remaining former Taliban taken off the list include Abdul Satar Paktin, and two dead men, Abdul Samad Khaksar and Muhammad Islam Mohammadi. The presence of dead people on the list has long been a source of embarrassment to the council. In December, the council passed a resolution that encourages states to report on the newly dead and encourages the U.N. committee responsible for overseeing the sanctions "to remove listings of deceased individuals where credible information regarding death is available."
Please follow me on Twitter @columlynch.
For the past week, Sri Lanka's minister for housing and construction, Wimal Weerawansa, has led a group of pro-government protesters that has ringed the U.N.'s Colombo headquarters, harassing U.N. employees, preventing staffers from entering and exiting the U.N. compound, and burning U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in effigy.
The protesters want to pressure Ban to reverse a decision he made last month to set up a panel to advise him on the U.N.'s response to alleged war crimes during Sri Lanka's victorious, but bloody, final offensive against the country's rebel Tamil Tigers. Adopting a little-used tactic of international diplomacy, Weerawansa vowed today to begin a hunger strike until Ban backs down.
Ban initially backed a request last year by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to carry out his own investigation into alleged war crimes during the conflict. Frustrated with the lack of progress, Ban established a three-member panel in June to advise him on how to ensure accountability for the possible war crimes.
The panel is chaired by Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia, Yasmin Sooka of South Africa, and Steven Ratner, an American lawyer. But Sri Lanka's government has accused Ban of exceeding his authority and refused to provide the panel members with visas to enter the country.
Ban has insisted that the panel will press ahead with its work. Today, he issued a statement saying that Sri Lanka's failure to "prevent the disruption of the normal functioning of the United Nations offices in Colombo was as result of unruly protests organized and led by a cabinet minister of the government" is "unacceptable." Ban recalled the top U.N.'s official in Sri Lanka for consultations in New York and ordered the U.N. office in Colombo shuttered.
But very little was heard from the broader U.N. membership, particularly developing countries like China, Egypt, and India, which have effectively blocked condemnation of Sri Lanka and served as enablers of Colombo's defiant behavior. Last week, Egypt, the chair of the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), circulated a letter, first published by Inner City Press, calling on Ban to back down from his plan to probe atrocities.
The non-aligned countries expressed "serious concern about the selective targeting of individual countries which it deems contrary to the founding principles of the movement," according to the letter. "In this context, the movement firmly opposed the unilateral evaluation and certification of the conduct of states as a means of exerting pressure on non aligned countries and developing countries."
The statement was scheduled to be adopted on Friday. But some NAM members, including Pakistan and Malaysia, objected to the letter, not because of concerns over Sri Lanka's conduct, but because its message might undermine their efforts to press Ban to carry out an investigation into the Israel's Memorial Day commando raid against a flotilla of aid activists. Egypt has asked Sri Lanka to revise the statement to address those concerns.
The Sri Lankan authorities mounted a massive offensive last year against the country's rebel Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Ealam, a ruthless separatist movement that used tens of thousands of ethnic Tamil civilians to defend its fighters, killing those who sought to flee the war zone. But human rights groups claim that government forces may have killed tens of thousands of unarmed civilians in the course of the conflict, primarily through the indiscriminate bombing of civilian enclaves.
The U.N. membership's response has been particularly mild when compared to their reaction to alleged Israel excesses in Gaza and in the flotilla raid, where Israeli commandos killed nine aid activists that resisted the seizure of their ship. In those cases, the U.N. Human Rights Council, the General Assembly, and the U.N. Security Council have all pressed for independent investigations into alleged Israeli crimes.
But there has been little action on Sri Lanka, where the loss of civilian lives was exponentially higher. Last May, Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged the U.N. Human Rights Council to launch a commission of inquiry to probe potential war crimes by Sri Lanka's government and rebel forces. Instead, the council adopted a statement congratulating Sri Lanka for prosecuting a successful military offensive against the Tamil Tigers. The statement welcomed Sri Lanka's "liberation" of tens of thousands of its citizens that held by rebels "against their will as hostages."
In a recent interview with Turtle Bay, Louise Arbour, the U.N.'s former High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the rights council "completely misapprehended the magnitude of the civilian casualties" in Sri Lanka, urging it to reconsider its position. Arbour, a former U.N. war crimes prosecutor who now heads the International Crisis Group, maintains that at least 30,000 civilians were killed in the final months of Sri Lanka's 2009 offensive against the Tamil Tigers. Most of them, she said, were likely killed as a result of indiscriminate bombing of civilian enclaves by Sri Lanka military forces.
Arbour said Sri Lanka and its supporters have frequently protested that Colombo is the target of unfair political pressure from powerful western governments. But she pointed out that many of the same governments have not hesitated to call for Israeli war crimes probes, citing the Human Rights Council's decision to set up a commission headed by the South African jurist, Richard Goldstone, to probe war crimes during the Gaza.
"They are always complaining about double standards and look at how quickly they acted on Gaza, where according to the Goldstone report, casualties were somewhere in the range of 1,500," Arbour said. "In Sri Lanka, we believe on the basis of evidence we have so far, 30,000 is probably in the right range. So, for the Human Rights Council to have been very quick to launch an investigation in Gaza, which led to a 500 page report, knowing ahead of time that they would not have the cooperation of Israel, you know where the double standards are."
Sri Lanka's charge d'affaires, Bandula Jayasekara, did not respond to a request for comment.
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch.
Richard C. Holbrooke, the White House's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, will travel to New York on Tuesday to help Afghanistan negotiate the removal of select Taliban members from a U.N. anti-terror blacklist, according to senior U.N.-based officials.
Holbrooke's decision to visit New York comes weeks after Afghan President Hamid Karzai appealed to the U.N. Security Council to drop Taliban from a list of individuals targeted with travel and financial sanctions, a first step in an effort to convince Taliban militants to end their insurgency and strike a peace deal with the government. The Afghan government's June 6 "peace jirga" on June 6 called for taking steps towards reconciliation with the Taliban, including the removal of former Taliban officials from the U.N. blacklist.
The Security Council is now reviewing the status of 15 former Taliban members on the watch list, including a former Taliban education minister, Mullah Arsala Rahmani, who is currently serving in the Afghan senate. According to council diplomats, President Karzai is expected to present the council's sanctions committee with a letter arguing that the 15 former Taliban have renounced terrorism and are no longer involved in the violent overthrow of his government.
The Afghan effort has been stalled by Russia, which has maintained that Karzai's government has provided insufficient evidence to remove the Afghans from the list. Russia made it clear that it takes a very hard line on the removal from the blacklist of Taliban who are still engaged in terrorist or military activities. On March 22, Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, told the council "that dialogue is possible only with those who have laid down arms, recognized the government and constitution of Afghanistan, and broken their links with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups."
But U.S. and Afghan officials hope that Russia, which agreed to delist a smaller group of five former Taliban officials in January, will be willing to at least let a limited number off the list, sending a signal to other Taliban fighters that it is possible to achieve relief from the U.N. measures. Council diplomats say the names under consideration do not include the Taliban's leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, or other combatants currently participating in the insurgency.
In advance of the talks, the United States made an important concession to Moscow. Last month, the State Department designated a Chechen separatist commander, Doku Umarov, a terrorist. Umarov and his followers have claimed responsibility for a number of violent actions, including a suicide bombing in Moscow's subway system. The decision, which was announced on the eve of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's White House summit with President Barack Obama, marked a shift in standard U.S. protocol. The U.S. usually places an individual on the U.S. terror list before pressing for his or her inclusion on the U.N. blacklist, but in this instance that was not the case. But U.N.-based officials said it was unclear whether the United States received assurances that Russia would respond by yielding ground on the Taliban sanctions.
The U.N. Security Council first imposed sanctions on the Taliban government in October 1999 for harboring Osama bin Laden, and refusing to surrender him to U.S. authorities for his alleged role in masterminding the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. More than 100 Taliban leaders were added to the list in January 2001.
After the September 11 terror attacks, the United States ushered through resolutions that added al Qaeda members and their supporters to the sanctions list. The measures included a travel ban, an arms embargo, and a prohibition on the direct or indirect provision of funds or economic resources. To authorize the removal of someone from the list, the resolution requires evidence that Taliban members have renounced violence, expressed support for the Afghan government and its constitution, and severed their links to al Qaeda. But efforts to reward individuals who break ranks with the Taliban and rally behind Karzai's government have run up against resistance from Russia.
"The Russian position is perfectly reasonable," said Richard Barrett, who oversees a committee responsible for monitoring implementation of the sanctions against the Taliban and al Qaeda. "People should not come off the list just because there is a political process. Mullah Omar and others aren't prevented from participating in the political process even though they are on the list."
But Afghanistan has increased pressure on Russia and other council members to reverse course, arguing that the sanctions list is an impediment to prospects for a peace settlement with the Taliban. Karzai met with a visiting delegation of Security Council members last month and appealed to them to remove names from the list. Some officials indicated that Karzai and his advisors had requested that the entire list of 137 Taliban be eliminated. But others challenged that account, saying that Karzai only asked that some Taliban officials be delisted.
In January, Russian government lifted its objection to delisting Wakil Ahmad Mutawakkil, a minister of foreign affairs in the former Taliban government, and Abdul Hakim Monib Muhammad Nazar, another former Taliban official who broke ranks with the movement and served as Karzai's governor in Uruzgan. Russia has also agreed to delist Fazl Muhammad Faizan Qamaruddin, Shams-us-Safa Aminzai, and Muhammad Musa Hotak Abdul Mehdi.
The Afghan leader is seeking to make progress on reconciling with the Taliban in advance of a major international conference in Kabul on July 20 aimed at supporting the stability of Afghanistan. Among the strongest advocates are Afghan politicians, like Mullah Rahmani, who stand to benefit directly from the delisting. Rahmani claims to have links to the Taliban and to have established indirect communications to Mullah Omar.
"The blacklist will be a start," he told the New York Times. "It is symbolically very important. Even if they only move 60 or 70 names, that would be enough. The next stop could be talks between government and Taliban representatives in some neutral country."
Follow me on Twitter @columlynch.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai blamed the United Nations and other foreign entities for interfering in the country's presidential election last summer, saying they sought to rig the vote to thwart his reelection bid, Joshua Partlow reports today in the Washington Post.
Karzai allegations of U.N. meddling come at a time when his government is facing mounting criticism from the Obama administration. In a recent visit to Kabul, President Obama sought to convey to Karzai the importance of reigning in corruption within his government.
Karzai lashed out at foreign elements for seeking to undermine his government. He accused Peter Galbraith, the deputy chief of the U.N. mission before he was fired -- in a dispute over the U.N.'s role in the Aug. 20 elections, and Philippe Morrillon, a retired French military officer who headed an EU vote-monitoring mission -- of rigging the election, according to the Post.
"There was fraud in the presidential election and the provincial election; no doubt there was massive fraud," Karzai said. "That was not done by the Afghans. The foreigners did that. That fraud was done by Galbraith. That fraud was done by Morillon. And that fraud was done by the embassies here."
Karzai's comments escalated a political battle that began when he signed a presidential decree in February that revised Afghanistan's elections law to give him more power to appoint the members of what had been a U.N.-led commission that investigates voting fraud. On Wednesday, the lower house of the parliament rejected that decree in a significant rebuke to Karzai, which he called unconstitutional.
In a telephone interview with Turtle Bay, Galbraith said today, "This is so absurd as to be laughable. Karzai was the beneficiary of the fraud and people he appointed to the election committed the fraud. I got fired for trying to prevent it."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fired Galbraith after he clashed with the mission's then special representative, Kai Eide, who stepped down early last month. Galbraith said he was let go for pressing Eide to confront massive fraud by Karzai's followers.
Eide and other top U.N. officials countered that Galbraith was let go for trying to annul the country's election process and install a candidate he favored. Senior U.N. officials said Galbraith proposed asking Karzai and his main competitor Abdullah Abdullah to step aside, and to set up a transitional government headed by the technocrat Ashraf Ghani. Galbraith, according to these officials, offered to seek support for the plan from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
"Here's a man, a U.N. representative, advocating an unconstitutional change of government," Vijay Nambiar, Ban's chief of staff, said of Galbraith. "Of course he was recalled. What would you have expected us to do?"
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
President Asif Ali Zardari prevailed
upon the U.N. Tuesday to delay the release for two weeks of a fact-finding
report that is expected to criticize Pakistan's security establishment for its
handling of the December 2007 assassination of his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
The move represents a political retreat by the Pakistani leader, who requested the U.N. probe during his first weeks in office, but is now facing challenges to his authority on several fronts. The Pakistani parliament is moving to strip him of powers he inherited from Pakistan's military government, and Pakistan's Supreme Court is set to reopen a pair of corruption cases against him.
The United Nations announced the delay just about two hours before a three-member U.N. fact-finding commission was scheduled to release a report on Bhutto's assassination in a press conference at U.N. headquarters.
But U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "accepted an urgent request by the president of Pakistan" to put off the release until April 15, according to Martin Nesirky, Ban's chief spokesman. Nesirky provided no explanation as to why Zardari asked to put off the release of the report, which has not been presented to Ban or the Pakistani government. He said the U.N. commission had informed Ban that its report is "complete and ready to be delivered."
Pakistan sought to use the delay to get the U.N. to reopen the investigation to consider new evidence. Pakistan's presidential spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, told the Associated Press that the U.N. commission should question two unidentified heads of state he claimed had called Bhutto before her death to warn of "serious threats to her life." But the U.N. insisted that the investigation was complete and there was no need to pursue new leads.
commission, headed by Chile's U.N. ambassador, Heraldo Muñoz, has conducted a nine-month long inquiry into the
circumstances surrounding the Dec. 27, 2007, attack that killed Bhutto after an
election campaign rally in Rawalpindi. Bhutto's murder, just 10 weeks after her
return from exile, sparked riots throughout Pakistan.
The report does not place blame on individuals for ordering Bhutto's killing, according to U.N. officials. But it sharply criticizes the Pakistan military for furnishing Bhutto with inadequate security on the day of her murder. It also faults Pakistan's former military government for allowing the crime scene and Bhutto's vehicle to be washed shortly after the killing.
A senior U.N.-based diplomat, who has met with members of the commission, said the report was also consistent with the findings of a Scotland Yard team that concluded Bhutto was killed by a single suicide bomber who blew up her vehicle. The team did not determine whether someone had ordered the killing.
The abrupt, last-minute appeal for a delay by Zardari comes about 18 months after the Pakistani leader made a personal appeal to Ban to conduct a wide-ranging probe into his late wife's murder. At the time, Zardari said he was less interested in holding the killers accountable than in having the United Nations produce an exhaustive document that honors his wife's democratic crusade in the face of Islamist extremism.
"I'm not looking to hang three 17-year-olds who were misguided by someone," Zardari said in a September 2008 interview with me for the Washington Post. "We are fighting for a cause that is larger than us."
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.