Last month saw officers of Sri Lanka Air Force 7th Aviation Contingent awarded for the deployment in Bria, Central African Republic, despite repeated calls for a ban on the deployment of Sri Lankan troops.
The ceremony comes despite a damning report by the former UN High Commissioner last year, which called on the UN to “keep under review Sri Lanka’s contributions to UN peacekeeping operations and screening systems for Sri Lanka personnel”.
The continued deployment of Sri Lanka troops comes despite growing concern over the military’s human rights record and an understanding that such a deployment acts as an endorsement of the military. In May, Sri Lanka’s war crimes accused army chief Shavendra Silva claimed that the participation of troops in United Nations peacekeeping missions was “an endorsement of the acceptance of your professional capabilities,” as he saluted off another contingent of soldiers to Mali.
Human rights organisations have stressed their concern over the deployment of Sri Lanka officers, citing numerous citing cases of human rights abuses during previous peacekeeping missions. In 2007, over 100 Sri Lankan peacekeepers were implicated in a child sex ring in Haiti. Sri Lankan troops were accused of exchanging food and money for sex with girls and boys as young as 12. While most of the accused were repatriated, none have been criminally prosecuted.
The Sri Lankan Airforce stands credibly accused of committing war crimes during the armed conflict where indiscriminate bombing raids have killed tens of thousands of Tamils across the North-East. Former Air Force commanders have been barred from taking up diplomatic positions from Italy to Canada due to their direct role in committing war crimes and massacres against the Tamil populace.
The 7th Sri Lanka Air Force Contingent deployed to MINUSCA in November last year (2021) includes 20 officers and 90 other rank personnel. In attendance of the ceremony was Chief Aviation Officer in MINUSCA, Mr Charles Roger Amoussou, Deputy Sector Commander Sector East, Colonel Ahmed Gomaa Mohamed, and military and civilian UN staff officers in MINUSCA.
Read the Sri Lankan military’s press release here.