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On Sri Lanka, Araud of France Says Accountability Is Up to Locals, Unlike in Libya


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 3 — After the UN belated published its Panel of Experts’ report on war crimes in Sri Lanka, Inner City Press asked the French Mission to the UN in writing for a comment on the report and what should happen next.

While the French mission never answered in writing, a spokesman told Inner City Press that a response would take time, and would come from Paris.

But French ambassador Gerard Araud, taking over the UN Security Council presidency for May, brought up Sri Lanka during his beginning of the month press conference. Explaining that the Security Council often chooses not to get involved in bloody conflicts, he referred to 30,000 dead in Sri Lanka, and the Council choosing not to get involved.

During what even the UN called the “bloodbath on the beach” in April and May 2009, Araud’s predecessor as Permanent Representative, Jean-Maurice Ripert, was often ambiguous on whether France wanted the Council to consider the conflict, which had regional dimension.

Ripert would refer to Bernard Kouchner traveling to Sri Lanka with “water bladders” and other humanitarian supplies, but never called for a ceasefire. Click here for an Inner City Press piece from that time.

  Inner City Press on May 3 asked Araud what France thinks should be done about the UN Panel of Experts report, which Araud himself summarizes as detailining 30,000 killings in Sri Lanka.

  Despite Araud having pushed this year to refer for example Libya to the International Criminal Court on a decidedly smaller death count, and has called for the same in former colony Cote d’Ivoire, Araud on May 3 said that investigation is up to the Sri Lankan authorities, as something they should do to “improve the reconciliation process.”

Araud & John Holmes, accountability for bloodbath on the beach not shown

Ironically, the Sri Lankan authorities — the Rajapaksas — speak loudly about a Western conspiracy. If one exists, France is not a part of it, at least not in Sri Lanka.

Despite France’s rhetoric about the primacy of the protection of civilians, Araud relegated accountability for 30,000 deaths to the sole responsibility of the Sri Lankan authorities, and only because it might improve reconciliation. Perhaps this seeming incongruity will be further explored this month.

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