The Sri Lankan government slammed the United Nations over its decision to ban “non-essential” Sri Lankan troops on peacekeeping missions, in a meeting this week where officials defended a military official accused of war crimes.
The UN announced that in response to the appointment of accused war criminal Shavendra Silva as head of the Sri Lanka’s military, they would not be calling on any further Sri Lankan troops to serve as peacekeepers.
Sri Lanka’s Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha met with Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Department of Peace Operations, where he declared “there were no factually substantiated or proven allegations of human rights violations against” Silva.
Aryasinha also criticised several reports that have named Silva as overseeing crimes committed by Sri Lankan troops, including from the United Nations and the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP).
A foreign ministry press release went on to state that “only 25% of the troops from Sri Lanka presently engaged in peacekeeping operations will be replaced” but continued to rail against the move.
“The UN did not fulfil its obligation and took a unilateral decision and presented a fait accompli to Sri Lanka,” it quoted Aryasinha as saying, adding that “Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Lebanon from the counterpart of the country concerned, at a diplomatic reception, rather than being professionally conveyed by the UNDPO”.
“Secretary Aryasinha observed that in operationalizing this decision, by seeking non-replacement of Sri Lankan Peacekeepers in one location where it is relatively easier to serve, while expecting them to continue in more vulnerable and high threat locations, the UNDPO was resorting to “cherry picking” on a questionable basis, which bears hallmarks of politicization of a sacred duty.”
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Silva’s appointment as head of Sri Lanka's military sparked international condemnation earlier this year.
He was the head of Sri Lanka's 58 Division, an army unit which has been accused of mass atrocities and violations of international law during the 2009 military offensive that saw the killing of tens of thousands of Tamils.
The 58 Division has been accused of repeatedly bombing hospitals, widespread sexual violence, torture and the execution of surrendering Tamils.
Read more on Silva in our feature here: Shavendra Silva - ‘the most wanted man in Sri Lanka’