How the Legacy of Its Failure in Sri Lanka Still Haunts the U.N. Today

Syrian authorities distribute bread, vegetables and pasta to residents of Douma, the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, April 16, 2018 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).
Syrian authorities distribute bread, vegetables and pasta to residents of Douma, the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, April 16, 2018 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).
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Ten years ago, the Sri Lankan military carried out a violent final offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a rebel group with a long history of atrocities. The offensive, which ultimately resulted in the end of the war, involved the brutal killings of thousands of civilians—acts that were documented in real time by journalists and United Nations officials. Back in New York, however, the U.N.’s leaders failed to muster a meaningful response to mitigate the bloodshed, and Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general at the time, soon came under heavy criticism. As Richard Gowan writes in this week’s in-depth report, […]

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