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US Ambassador celebrates New Year with sanctioned Sri Lankan war criminal

The US Ambassador to Sri Lanka celebrated the Tamil and Sinhala New Year alongside a Sri Lankan commander who is currently barred from entering the US over his role in executing Tamils.

Julie Chung was seen in tow with Sri Lanka’s Chief of Defence Staff Shavendra Silva. 

As the former commander of the 58 Division, Silva is accused of multiple crimes, including the execution of surrendering Tamils. He is currently barred from entry to the United States due to his role in war crimes. Under multiple Sri Lankan governments, however, he has been praised and promoted.

Read more in our feature: US bans Sri Lanka’s army chief from entry over war crimes

Despite the fact the Silva is sanctioned by her government, Chung was pictured alongside the war criminal as they observed the festivities, including a tug of war game.

The event, organised by Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Presidential Secretariat, took place at the Shangri-La green grounds in Colombo. The site housed a reported mass grave, after skeletal remains were uncovered during the construction of the hotel in 2017.The site had apparently been used by the British as a cemetery and until 2012, was also the headquarters of Sri Lanka’s Army.

Chung’s participating in festivities alongside Silva comes as the Untied States continues to grow close military ties with Colombia, despite its history of human rights abuses.

Yet last week, the US State Department said that 2023 was marred with a slew of “significant human rights issues” including torture, degrading treatment by the government, unjustified arrests, and extrajudicial killings. Its annual report said the Sri Lankan “government took minimal steps to identify and punish officials who may have committed human rights abuses,” which includes “crimes involving violence targeting Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Tamils”.

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