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Sri Lankan army chief accused of war crimes appointed Acting Chief of Defence Staff

Sri Lankan Army Commander Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva has been appointed as the acting Chief of Defence staff by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, effective from 1st  January 2020.

He replaces Admiral Ravindra C Gunaratne, the former Chief of Defence Staff who retired from service on 31st  December 2019.

He was most notably known to be in command of an army division that surrounded the final stronghold of the Tamil Tigers in the final stages of the civil war. His division has been accused of violating international human rights laws, including shelling a hospital, which he has denied.

UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Michelle Bachelet had previously expressed her concern of Silva’s appointment as Lieutenant General. "I am deeply troubled by the appointment of Lieutenant-General Shavendra Silva as Commander of the Sri Lankan Army, despite the serious allegations of gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law against him and his troops during the war," she said in August this year reported by Al Jazeera.

Silva will assume duties as the new Chief of Defence this Wednesday while remaining as the country’s Army Chief.

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