By Easwaran Rutnam
A Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) has submitted a 50-page dossier on Army Commander General Shavendra Silva to the Sanctions Department of the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office.
The International Truth and Justice Project (ITPJ) led by a former member of a UN investigations panel, Yasmin Sooka, argues in the submission why Silva, who is Sri Lanka’s current Army Commander, should be designated under the United Kingdom’s Global Human Rights (GHR) Sanctions Regime established on 6 July 2020.
“We have an extensive archive of evidence on the final phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka, meticulously collected by international prosecutors and lawyers. The testimony of victims and witnesses – many now in the UK – was vital in informing this submission, and making the linkages to Shavendra Silva and those under his command,” Sooka said.
The ITJP Submission details General Shavendra Silva’s alleged role in the perpetration of gross human rights violations including of the right to life when he was 58 Division Commander during the final phase of the civil war in 2009 in the north of Sri Lanka.
It draws on searing eyewitness testimony from Tamils who survived the alleged government shelling and bombing of hospitals and food queues in the so called No Fire Zones, many of whom now reside in the UK as refugees.
“The US State Department designated Shavendra Silva in 2020 for his alleged role in the violations at the end of the war but the remit of the UK sanctions regime works is broader and includes his role in the shelling of hospitals and other protected civilian sites during the military offensive. This is important in terms of recognising the full extent of the violations, as well as supporting the US action,” Sooka said.
“UK designation would be another significant step forward in terms of accountability and would be in line with the recent UN Human Rights Council Resolution passed in Geneva for which Britain was the penholder,” she added.
ITJP notes that political will in applying the UK’s new sanctions regime to Sri Lanka was apparent in a recent parliamentary debate which saw eleven British parliamentarians ask why the UK government had not applied sanctions against Sri Lankan military figures.
The military has denied claims the military committed grave human rights abuses during the war. (Colombo Gazette)