Sri Lanka featured in the UN Secretary General’s opening speech the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, in a rare admission of the international organisation’s systemic failure during the final days of the war between the government and the LTTE.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon blamed the inability of Member States and the United Nations to prevent and put a stop to large-scale human rights violations has had disastrous consequences.
Citing an internal review of UN action at the end of the war in Sri Lanka, Ban said the UN had identified a systemic failure. “Member States did not provide the United Nations system with support to meet the tasks they themselves had set; and the system itself unfortunately did not adapt properly or deliver fully,” the UN Secretary General told the General Assembly.
Ban called for the renewal of commitment to the UN’s founding principles on the 20th anniversary of the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights this year. “I intend to do more to help Member States reach early consensus to prevent large-scale violations, and I am implementing recommendations to ensure that the UN system upholds its responsibilities under the Charter,” Ban said.
In 2012, the Secretary-General had set up an Internal Review Panel (IRP) on UN actions in Sri Lanka. The Panel was led by Charles Petrie and was tasked with providing an overview and assessment of UN actions during the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka and its aftermath, particularly regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates.
The Petrie report cites findings from about 7,000 documents, including internal UN exchanges with the government of Sri Lanka.