Inner city press un, told it has 49 unvetted sri lanka soldiers in lebanon, tells icp of tier of screening for 101 types of electricity tariff

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UNITED NATIONS, May 16 – UN Peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix has been multiply informed that the Sri Lanka government vetting of peacekeepers the UN has relied on has not been complied with, regarding at least 49 soldiers now "serving" the UN in Lebanon. Inner City Press was sent a copy of the letters, and published them – then asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric for the UN’s response. All he said, at noon on April 6, is that he would check to see that the letter has been received. More than 72 hours later, he had not provided even that confirmation; at the April 9 noon briefing he promoted an unrelated Lacroix trip to Sudan and the Central African Republic. Now on May 16, Inner City Press asked Dujarric’s deputy Farhan Haq and there was something of an answer. Video here; UN transcript here: Inner City Press: there has been a long, outstanding issue raised to DPKO about Sri Lankans that were sent unvetted by the Government to Lebanon and another commander that was sent to one of the missions in Africa. Does DPKO have an answer on that yet? Deputy Spokesman: "regarding the question of the Sri Lankans, as of the past week, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka was conducting an additional tier of vetting for 49 Sri Lankan officers who have been already deployed to the UN Mission in Lebanon, UNIFIL. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka is undertaking their vetting and the vetting of the remaining 101 military personnel of the unit who are scheduled to be deployed. We are working together with the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that the screening arrangements with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka comply with UN policy. Compliance with these arrangements will be required before the UN can receive any further deployments or rotations from Sri Lanka." We’ll have more on this. Earlier in the process, Dujarric stonewalled on human rights and corruption issues by withholding confirmation for three days, despite written questions each day from Inner City Press, while continuing restrictions on the Press. On April 12, Inner City Press asked yet another, in person at the noon briefing. And hours after that, this written answer came from the UN Office of the Spokesperson – Do Not Reply, presumably from Dujarric given the first person pronoun: "I can confirm that DPKO has received this letter. The Secretariat is committed to ensuring that all personnel serving with the UN meet the highest standards of conduct, competence and integrity, including respect for and commitment to human rights. Member States that provide personnel to UN peacekeeping operations have the responsibility to certify that all these personnel have not been involved, by act or omission, in violations of international humanitarian law or human rights law, and have not been repatriated on disciplinary grounds from a UN operation. In the case of Sri Lanka where there are specific human rights concerns, we put in place additional screening measures in 2016 to help ensure that deployed personnel meet our standards. Prior to their deployment to UNIFIL, the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka provided an attestation certifying that the contingent had not been involved in any violations. However, in February 2018, we learned that the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission – which the Government of Sri Lanka had agreed it would undertake human rights screening of all Sri Lankan personnel – had not yet completed the screening when the rotation of the unit in UNIFIL started. UN Peacekeeping immediately raised this with the Sri Lankan authorities and the deployment was stopped. DPKO has requested that the Sri Lankan government immediately prioritize the completion of the screening for the 49 officers already deployed to UNIFIL. If concerns arise regarding the 49 personnel already deployed to UNIFIL, DPKO may request that they be repatriated and replaced at the Government’s cost. Meanwhile, we’ve asked the Government of Sri Lanka to formalize the screening arrangements with the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission. Compliance with these arrangements will be required before the UN can receive any further deployments or rotations from Sri Lanka. The Government is cooperating with us in this regard." So the Government violated the procedure, after other substantive violations, but the UN says it is cooperating? We’ll have more on this. Here is the text of the letter sent to Lacroix, to the UN in Geneva and to Inner City Press:

We write to draw your attention to allegations that the Sri Lankan Army has deployed UN peacekeepers in violation of the vetting agreement it reached with the National Human Rights Commission, as well as their obligation to conduct their own due diligence process to ensure that those who may constitute a risk to peacekeeping are not sent out. The failure to abide by these commitments constitutes a mockery of the whole process. Below are also a few remedial steps we think should be taken now.

The complaint regarding the vetting comes from no less than the country’s National Human Rights Commission (HRCSL), a body appointed by the Government itself. You can see this complaint in a Sinhala letter from the HRCSL to the President of Sri Lanka in his capacity as commander in chief on the HRCSL website. The gist of it has been reported in English by exiled Sri Lankan journalists. It says that the HRCSL and the Sri Lankan Army signed an agreement in 2016 for the HRCSL to vet Sri Lanka’s peacekeepers but the Army deployed 49 of them to Lebanon on 18 February 2018 before this process was complete and they had handed over all the information on them requested by the HRCSL. Indeed, some of the information requested by the HRCSL is said to be still pending.

Ultimately the responsibility lies with your department for the vetting process in terms of the Secretary General’s ‘Zero Tolerance” policy on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) as well as his new policy statement which he announced in 2017 “Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse: A New Approach”, which has clearly failed spectacularly again in Sri Lanka. According to the UN, it seeks to ensure that only “individuals with the highest standards of integrity, competence and efficiency” are hired – this has not been the record with regard to Sri Lanka. You will note that to date there has been no criminal accountability for the 134 Sri Lankan peacekeepers sent home from Haiti in connection with systematic child sexual exploitation from 2004-7, which was confirmed by an OIOS investigation.

3. To inform us whether the HRCSL raised objections about contingent commander Lt. Col Hewage’s deployment before we raised this issue with you in our letter of 14th February. We understand (from the HRCSL letter online) that they had the PHP forms for the 204 Lebanon-bound soldiers from 21 December 2017 so should have been able to identify the problems regarding the contingent commander that we ourselves identified from a quick online search once his name was made public. Specifically, were concerns raised by the HRCSL before the 18 February 2018 deployment of the 49 men? Their letter suggests they didn’t know the men were about to be deployed, despite the issue being raised by us and being published officially on the army’s website.

5. To conduct a retrospective vetting of all other Sri Lankan peacekeepers currently deployed – other than the 200 that went to Mali who were vetted by OHCHR in Geneva. We know Sri Lankan peacekeepers are currently deployed in many other countries and it’s probable they haven’t been properly vetted for their human rights record."