Several Tamil diaspora organizations have written to the Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations urging a response to the issues surrounding the involvement of Sri Lanka’s paramilitary police in international peacekeeping.
The request follows the release of a report by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) that outlines the several human rights violations committed by the paramilitary police (commonly known as the Special Task Force - STF) over the course of three decades.
“Some of their alleged crimes against Tamils include summary executions, abductions, enforced disappearance for which there has been no accountability. Even this year there are allegations that the STF were complicit in the recent violence targeting Muslims. We believe this is because they enjoy total impunity and unfortunately peacekeeping is a reward,” stated the letter.
In addition, the ITJP report identified 56 STF officers that should be screened and vetted given their involvement in abuses – of which, a senior STF commander is currently serving in Africa.
In response to this finding the letter stated, “This is yet another instance of the failure of your vetting procedures for Sri Lanka. We urge you to send this individual home immediately and ensure he is credibly investigated. Also we note there are instances of other senior STF officers being deployed in the past in UN peacekeeping roles such as SSP Waruna Jayasundera in South Sudan, which indicate a sustained failure of vetting, in our opinion.”
The letter, signed by Australian Tamil Congress, British Tamils Forum, Canadian Tamil Congress, Ilankai Tamil Sangam , People for Equality and Relief in Lanka and United States Tamil Political Action Council, also probes the Under-Secretary to respond to the following questions:
- What action will you take regarding the list of 56 names?
- How will the STF be screened and vetted – those already in the field and those in future deployments?
- Will you return home the STF officer currently deployed in Africa who does not appear to have been effectively vetted?
- Have you, or will you, vet the members of Sri Lanka’s Directorate of Overseas Operations?
- Please state the vetting criteria currently in use – please note the ITJP report contains some suggested criteria that might be helpful to consider.