Sept 25, Colombo: According to a report in Foreign Policy, the United Nations peacekeeping department has decided to ban the deployment of non-essential Sri Lankan army troops in U.N. peacekeeping missions, citing the country's appointment of an alleged war criminal to a top military post, a U.N. spokesperson has told the American news publication.
Lt. General Shavendra Silva was recently appointed chief of the Sri Lankan army, eliciting criticism from the U.N., the United States, and the European Union.
Silva commanded Sri Lanka's 58th division during the final stages of the country's military campaign to crush the Tamil Tigers, a militant separatist movement known for pioneering suicide terror attacks. The Sri Lankan military has been accused of committing war crimes in a campaign that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians, according to the United Nations.
The U.N. High Commissioner for the United Nations, Michelle Bachelet, announced last month that Silva's appointment was "deeply troubling" given the "serious allegations of gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law against him and his troops during the war."
This week, a U.N. spokesperson confirmed to Foreign Policy that it would ban new Sri Lankan units from deploying in U.N. missions unless their presence is vital for ensuring the missions' security. "A Sri Lankan Army unit and individual officers currently serving with U.N. Peacekeeping will thus be repatriated, beginning next month, in accordance with their rotation dates and will not be replaced by Sri Lankan personnel," said Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antønio Guterres. He added the U.N. is "grateful" for Sri Lanka's contribution of troops to six U.N. peacekeeping operations, but is troubled by Silva's promotion.
"We have expressed our concern to the Government of Sri Lanka over the appointment of Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva to the position of Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, despite well-documented, credible allegations of his involvement in serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law," Haq said. "In light of this appointment, the U.N. Department of Peace Operations is therefore suspending future Sri Lankan Army deployments except where suspension would expose U.N. operations to serious operational risk," he said.