Shavendra Silva seeing off Sri Lankan troops enroute UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan
The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) have called on the United Nations Peacekeeping department to suspend the deployment of Sri Lankan troops following the release of the UN human rights chief's damning report last month.
The report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 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.
In her latest report, the High Commissioner recommended that Sri Lanka's contributions to UN peacekeeping and screening systems for Sri Lankan personnel are kept under review. This recommendation has been echoed by the ITJP who have called for the screening process to be moved back to Geneva as the "independence and credibility of the body tasked with vetting the troops had been fundamentally eroded."
"The UN Department of Peace Operations has a legal duty to ensure due diligence before deploying troops," the Executive Director of the ITJP, Yasmin Sooka, said.
Following the appointment of war criminal Shavendra Silva as Sri Lanka's Army Commander in 2019, the UN suspended Sri Lankan troops from peacekeeping except where operations could be endangered.
Despite widespread criticism of Silva's appointment, Sri Lankan troops were seen saluting Silva before being deployed to South Sudan in November 2020.
The Sri Lankan Army have been accused of human rights violations in Sri Lanka and in Haiti. During a peacekeeping mission in 2007, over 100 Sri Lankan peacekeepers were identified as being a part of a child sex ring. 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.
"It's time for UN Peacekeeping to show the Government of Sri Lanka that there are consequences for its promotion of alleged war criminals, in line with the Secretary General's principled stance on human rights and justice in Sri Lanka," Ms Sooka added.