Home Equality & Justice UN rights boss calls for sanctions on Sri Lankan ex-commanders

UN rights boss calls for sanctions on Sri Lankan ex-commanders

The UN human rights chief urged states on Jan. 27 to impose “targeted sanctions” on former Sri Lankan military commanders, including the current army chief, linked to alleged atrocities during the last years of a 26-year civil war that ended in 2009.

Michelle Bachelet said that last year President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had put at least 28 serving or retired military and intelligence figures in key administrative posts, including some “implicated in United Nations reports on alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity during the final years of the conflict”.

“States can consider targeted sanctions, such as asset freezes and travel bans against credibly alleged perpetrators of grave human rights violations and abuses,” she said in a report to the UN Human Rights Council ahead of a February session.

States could also prosecute suspects in their national courts under universal jurisdiction, Bachelet said.

Her report, whose findings were quickly rejected as baseless by Sri Lankan authorities, named current army chief Shavendra Silva and defence secretary Kamal Gunaratne, whom it said commanded forces that battled Tamil Tigers separatist rebels.

“They respectively commanded the 58th and 53rd Divisions, which were credibly alleged to have committed grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the armed conflict,” it said.

When Silva was appointed in August 2019, a Foreign Ministry statement said that raising allegations against him was “regrettable” and that the decision was a sovereign one.

- Newsletter -

In Colombo, a senior Sri Lankan official swiftly rejected the report. “Unsubstantiated accusations against government officers are wrong. If they have something they have to follow an internationally accepted procedure,” retired Admiral Jayanath Colombage, a Foreign Ministry state secretary, told Reuters.

John Fisher of Human Rights Watch said the report “lays bare Sri Lanka’s record of complete impunity for appalling crimes under international law, and the very alarming developments under the current government”.

Gotabaya, as he is popularly known, is the younger brother of current Prime Minister and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa; together they led the government side to victory over the Tamil guerrillas after a protracted, devastating conflict.

Bachelet said: “Sri Lanka remains in a state of denial about the past, with truth-seeking efforts aborted and the highest state officials refusing to make any acknowledgement of past crimes.”   

© Copyright LiCAS.news. All rights reserved. Republication of this article without express permission from LiCAS.news is strictly prohibited. For republication rights, please contact us at: [email protected]

Support LiCAS.news

We work tirelessly each day to tell the stories of those living on the fringe of society in Asia and how the Church in all its forms - be it lay, religious or priests - carries out its mission to support those in need, the neglected and the voiceless.
We need your help to continue our work each day. Make a difference and donate today.