By Easwaran Rutnam
Sri Lankan officials, including Army Commander of Lieutenant-General Shavendra Silva risks being designated by the United Kingdom (UK) under a new British sanctions regime.
In a written response submitted to the UK House of Commons, Minister of State at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Nigel Adams did not confirm or deny moves to designate Sri Lankan officials accused of human rights abuses.
Asked about the possibility of the UK imposing sanctions or travel restrictions on Sri Lankan officials accused of alleged war crimes, Adams noted that the UK has announced its intention to establish a UK autonomous Global Human Rights (‘Magnitsky-style’) sanctions regime.
The regulations will come into force once secondary legislation is laid in the UK Parliament in the coming months.
“It would be inappropriate to comment on potential designations before the regulations come into force,” he added.
The United States had recently designated Lieutenant-General Shavendra Silva, a move which drew strong criticism from the Sri Lankan Government.
Adams noted that the UK has long supported Sri Lanka’s accountability commitments made to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) through resolutions 30/1, 34/1 and 40/1 as the best way to establish truth regarding alleged crimes committed by all sides during the Sri Lankan civil war, as well as to achieve accountability and reconciliation.
He recalled that in August 2019, the British High Commission in Colombo issued a joint statement alongside other European partners to express concern about the appointment of Lieutenant-General Shavendra Silva as Commander of the Sri Lankan Army due to the allegations of grave human rights and humanitarian law violations against him.
“We continue to underline the importance of accountability, justice and reconciliation in our engagement with the Government of Sri Lanka, including through the statement of the Core Group on Sri Lanka at the UNHRC in Geneva on 27 February. The Minister for South Asia Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon underlined the importance of these issues when he met the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena, in Geneva on 25 February,” he said. (Daily Mirror/Colombo Gazette)