The International Truth and Justice Project have called upon the British Foreign Office to abide by its commitments to human rights and impose Magnitsky Sanctions against Sri Lanka’s Army Commander, Shavendra Silva, who is credibly accused of crimes against humanity.
In their statement, they note that have compiled an extensive dossier detailing his role in mass atrocities including summary executions; the shelling of hospital and food lines; the white phosphorus against civilians; rape and sexual violence; and enforced disappearances. Silva led the notorious 58 Division of Sri Lanka’s Army which engaged in almost every battle in the end of the armed conflict.
In 2011, Channel 4 News interviewed an army officer on the front lines of the offensive, who told of the crimes committed by troops from the unit. He stated,
“They shot people at random, stabbed people, raped them, cut out their tongues, cut women’s breasts off. I have witnessed this with my own eyes. I saw the naked dead bodies of women without heads and other parts of their bodies. I saw a lot of small innocent children getting killed in large numbers. I saw people soaked in blood.
They could do whatever they wanted there. It was their empire.”
Read more here: US ban on Shavendra Silva is ‘legal requirement’ says Pompeo
The ITJP statement highlights that issues of torture and sexual violence are priority areas of the UK government’s foreign policy. In 2015, then British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, highlighted the issues of sexual violence and called for an independent international investigation into Sri Lankan war crimes if the Sri Lankan government failed to produce a credible and independent commission. In the latest report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, she notes” the demonstrated inability and unwillingness of Government to advance accountability” and calls on UN member states to “pursue investigations and prosecution in their national courts - under accepted principles of extraterritorial or universal jurisdiction”.
The ITJP has further stressed the strong political will in the UK for action, noting that 11 British parliamentarians, across the main political parties, have asked why the UK government had not applied sanctions against Sri Lankan military figures, including Shavendra Silva.
Read the ITJP press statement here.
Read the ITJP dossier here.