U.N. blacks out memo admitting Human Rights Council failure on Sri Lanka accountability

The U.N. censored an internal memo showing how top officials recognized the failure of the world body’s Human Rights Council when it came to seeking accountability for Sri Lanka’s killing of an estimated 40,000 civilians in 2009.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had established a Panel of Experts to look into the conflict and its aftermath. One of the recommendations of its 2011 report was for the Human Rights Council “to reconsider its May 2009 Special Session resolution regarding Sri Lanka, in light of this report.”

That session, called by the European Union, had been hijacked by Sri Lanka’s allies, and ended up praising the Sri Lankan government, rather than condemning its atrocities.

A second recommendation asked for the U.N. to conduct “a comprehensive review of action by the United Nations system during the war in Sri Lanka and the aftermath, regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates.” Ban Ki-moon established a follow-up panel to do just that.

The second panel’s conclusions were released on 14 November 2012. The panel found that “the United Nations system failed to meet its responsibilities, highlighting, in particular, the roles played by the Secretariat, the agencies and programmes of the United Nations country team, and the members of the Security Council and Human Rights Council.”

The published report included several parts that were blacked out. Inner City Press published the same document, noting how the blacked-out parts are readable by a simple copy-paste.

The second blacked-out part shows the deep mistrust of senior U.N. staff towards their own Human Rights Council. Indeed, they preferred to bypass it and opt for a Sri Lankan domestic mechanism, notwithstanding its known limitations:

In June 2009 the Policy Committee discussed the possibility of UN action to establish a mechanism for an international investigation, an option presented by OHCHR. Several participants noted the limited support from Member States at the Human Rights Council and suggested the UN advocate instead for a domestic mechanism, although it was recognized that past domestic mechanisms in Sri Lanka had not led to genuine accountability.

2 Responses to “U.N. blacks out memo admitting Human Rights Council failure on Sri Lanka accountability”


  • The killing of estimated 40,000 civilians in 2009 by Sri Lankan armed forces is genocide and nothing else. The tragedy is that this has cowardly act has been done in the name of war. In a genuine war, civilians are not targeted although there is probability that civilians could get killed, which a collateral damage.

    The allies of the Sri Lankan government lobby in favor of the Sri Lankan government. The Sri Lankan government and its allies simply slaughter the principles of Human Rights at the UN Human Rights office of the UN. UN Human Rights office of the UN has become a slaughter house for the principles of Human Rights. Several governments around the world who have a very poor Human Rights record have been given a seat at the UN, without consideration on the basis of merit, at the Council for Human Rights and ignored those who have a sound record. This has only served to strip the UN’s Human Rights Council of its core principles, for whose implementation it exists, and thrown them into the dustbin.

    The Sri Lankan government and its allies are accountable to its people and to rest of the world for the wanton murder of innocent civilians and they better pay the price for it.

  • This is genocide and the matter should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and/or to the International Court of Justice (ICJ)as soon as possible

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