The commander of the Sri Lankan Air Force, Sudarshana Pathirana observed the fall out parade of the No 7 Contingent of the aviation unit before their deployment to the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) at the end of this month, despite ongoing human rights concerns.
The unit comprises of 20 officers and 90 airmen and will serve in the United Nations helicopter deployment.
This comes despite increasing concern over abuses by Sri Lanka’s military following the scathing UN High Commissioner’s report earlier this year and increasing calls for a ban on deploying Sri Lankan troops for UN peacekeeping missions. In the High Commissioner’s report, she calls on the UN to “keep under review Sri Lanka’s contributions to UN peacekeeping operations and screening systems for Sri Lanka personnel”.
The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) has called for the suspension of all Sri Lankan peacekeepers following the release of the UN human rights commissioners report. The report highlighted that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, which is responsible for the vetting of Sri Lankan troops, has been "politicised and its independence undermined by the appointment of a former Government minister as its chairperson" the ITJP stated in a press release.
The deployment of Sri Lankan forces comes despite grievous human rights abuses during 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.
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