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US discusses ‘enduring security partnership’ with Sri Lankan war criminal

The US ambassador to Sri Lanka spoke of her government’s “enduring security partnership” and “joint training opportunities” with Colombo, after meeting with a former Sri Lankan commander who stands credibly accused of war crimes.

Julie Chung posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on her meeting with Kamal Gunaratne last week.

“We discussed our enduring security partnership, defense reform, joint training opportunities, & combatting drug trafficking,” she said. “The United States looks forward to our upcoming Cooperation Afloat Readiness & Training (CARAT) Navy exercise in 2024,” the US ambassador added.

The US continues to maintain close military ties with Sri Lanka, despite its history of mass atrocities.

Gunaratne, in particular, stands accused of overseeing a litany of war crimes. He was commander of the army’s infamous 53 Division during the 2009 massacres, and allegedly oversaw numerous abuses, including sexual violence, summary executions and the disappearance of those who surrendered to the military.

Read more: Who are Sri Lanka Army’s 53 Division? (Channel 4)

The 53 Division is responsible for the killing of Tamil TV presenter, Isaipriya, who surrendered to the Sri Lankan military in 2009. A UN investigation concluded that the 53 Division initially claimed responsibility for her killing. 

The investigation found:

“Reasonable grounds to believe that security forces captured Isaipriya alive and then killed her with gunshots to the head execution style. Further, based on the images of Isaipriya’s dead body and those of many other women, the OISL believes that Isaipriya’s dead body was desecrated.” 

The OHCHR Investigation into Sri Lanka (OISL) also found “reasonable grounds to say the 53 Division while commanded by Gunaratne was involved in attacks on hospitals and civilians in three ‘No Fire Zones,’ summary execution and torture,” according to an ITJP dossier on Gunaratne. 

After the war ended, Gunaratne went on to run one of Sri Lanka’s most notorious torture camps in Vavuniya.

In 2017, he told an audience that “traitors” who attempt to divide Sri Lankan by introducing a new constitution must be killed. He went on to slam attempts to introduce a new constitution as “on the requirement of the Western forces and Tamil Diaspora to please Tamil separatists”.

Though Chung continues to meet with Gunaratne, there have been calls from British parliamentarians as recent as last year calling for him to face sanctions.

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