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Sri Lanka 'will not hesitate' to introduce laws to protect soldiers from war crimes trials – SLPP Chairman

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Chairman-G.L. Peiris

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Chairman G.L. Peiris claimed the Sri Lankan government “wouldn’t hesitate” to make constitutional amendments to guarantee protection for their armed forces from potential war crimes trials.

His comments to The Island, came following a damning report released by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights which urged member states to consider asset freezes and travel bans on Sri Lankan officials, as well as pursuing trials in their respective national courts. His remarks come as the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is underway in Geneva.

The former foreign secretary speaking at an SLPP press brief told reporters, that the constitution could be amended to protect the armed forces, stating the UNHRC is pursuing an “agenda” against Sri Lanka.

Gunadasa Amarasekera, a spokesperson for the Federation of National Organisations (FNO), a collective of Sinhala political organisations, businesses and civil society groups based in the South also said it would be “ridiculous” for Sri Lanka to accept another resolution at the United Nations and “that losing a vote in Geneva was much better”.

Several high-ranking members of Sri Lanka's government stand credibly accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity towards the end of the armed conflict which saw tens of thousands of Tamil civilians killed by state forces. Last year, the US state department imposed a travel ban on the head of the Sri Lankan Army, Shavendra Silva. Silva alongside his family were barred entry to the US due to “credible information of his involvement, through command responsibility, in gross violations of human rights”. Silva was the head of the notorious 58th division which stands accused of the most egregious crimes.

The appointment of former Air force commander and accused war criminal, Sumangala Dias as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Canada was reportedly stalled by the Canadian government following strong complaints lodged by Tamil Canadian groups and Parliamentarians. Dias stands accused of committing war crimes, in his role as the acting Commander of the Air force base Hinguarakgoda in 2005 from which many of the indiscriminate bombing missions against civilians targets originated from. He was appointed as senior air coordinator in 2008 and oversaw the final stages of the conflict coordinating Sri Lankan Air Force Operations with ground operations of the 57,58 and 59 Divisions of the Sri Lankan Army, which have been credibly accused of committing war crimes.

Read more at the Island

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