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Sri Lanka appoints new navy commander as Gota’s inner circle grows

Sri Lanka has appointed a new navy commander, as promotions of officers close to Sri Lankan president and accused war criminal Gotabaya Rajapaksa continue.

Rear Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne was promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral in a ceremony attended by Buddhist monks and other senior naval figures, the official Navy website reported

Since Gotabaya took office as president, promotions of military and naval officers, despite credible accusations of human rights abuses.

Ulugetenne had previously commanded the 4th Fast attack Craft flotilla and the SLNS Nandimithra at end of the armed conflict, where tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed. Naval bombardments were instrumental in the targeting of the “No Fire Zones” in the final weeks of the war. Ulugetenne is regarded as a key member of a team that introduced missiles to the naval fleet.

From 2011, Ulugetenne worked as the Director of Naval Intelligence and worked alongside other senior naval figures implicated in the overseeing of ‘Gun Site’, a secret detention and torture site situated in the Trincomalee naval complex. The torture site has also been referred to as "Gota's camp" in court documents. 

'Gun Site' - secret detention and torture site located in Trincomalee. Photography by ITJP 

In the International Truth and Justice Project’s 2019 report, ‘The Sri Lankan Navy: A Collective Blind Eye,’ Ulugetenne was listed as one of several navy commanders who “knew or should have known about ‘Gun Site’  (2009-2012) and/ or crimes allegedly committed by the special intelligence unit,” including torture and sexual violence.  

The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances visited the detention site in 2015 and noted that systematic torture had taken place in the underground cells. It also noted that the secret detention site was in existence for years and would not have been “unnoticed” by other officials.

The ITJP report highlights that Naval Intelligence vehicles were not checked when entering and exiting the naval bases. Witnesses told the ITJP that white vans went in and out of the complex, but security staff were not allowed to log them.

Witnesses describe being detained for years in the Trincomalee secret detention sites, with various methods of physical torture and sexual violence being used.

Read the ITJP's report here


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