US bans entry of Sri Lanka army chief over credible war crimes charges


WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday banned the entry of Sri Lanka’s army chief Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva over credible war crime charges of gross violations of human rights, in particular extrajudicial killings during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the allegations of gross human rights violations against Silva, documented by the United Nations and other organisations, are serious and credible.

His designation underscores the importance we place on human rights in Sri Lanka and globally, our concern over impunity for human rights violations and abuses, as well as our support for promoting accountability for those who engage in such acts, he said.

Silva, 55, was appointed as the Sri Lankan Army Commander last year and previously headed the Army’s 58th Division in the final battle against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels of the civil war in 2009.

His brigade was accused of attacking civilians, hospitals and stopping humanitarian supplies to trapped Tamil civilians.

Silva’s name was mentioned in the resolution passed by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2013, alleging rights abuses by the Sri Lankan Army

The Sri Lanka Army has denied the alleged rights abuses.

After the brutal civil war ended, Silva served in New York as Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN Mission.

According to a United Nations report, some 45,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the last months of the war alone.

The ban imposed on Silva’s entry to the US are under Section 7031 (c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act.

The acts provide that, in cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that foreign officials have been involved in a gross violation of human rights or significant corruption, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States.

The law also requires the Secretary of State to publicly or privately designate such officials and their immediate family members.

In addition to the public designation of Shavendra Silva, the Department is also designating his immediate family members, Pompeo said in a statement.

Pompeo urged the Sri Lankan government to promote human rights, hold accountable individuals responsible for war crimes and human rights violations, advance security sector reform, and uphold its other commitments to pursue justice and reconciliation.

Noting that the administration deeply values its partnership with the Sri Lankan government and the long-standing democratic tradition it shares with the nation’s people, Pompeo said the US remains committed to strengthening the bilateral relationship with Sri Lanka and helping reshape its security forces to tackle current and emerging threats.

“Security cooperation will continue to emphasise respect for human rights as a fundamental component of our training, assistance, and engagements,” he said. PTI