A global rights group has demanded the international prosecution of Sri Lanka’s new Army Chief Major General Shavendra Silva over allegations of war crimes during the final military battle with the LTTE militant group in 2009.
The Johannesburg-based International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said Silva was named by a UN investigation for his part in commanding the 58 Division of the army “which was the unit responsible for repeated and deliberate attacks on hospitals, food distribution queues and displacement camps resulting in tens of thousands of civilian deaths” towards the end of the three-decade civil war when the LTTE was finally crushed.
“Sri Lanka now has a chief of army staff who risks arrest every time he travels abroad, if any country is foolish enough to give him a visa,” an ITJP release said.
The ITJP said that in 2011, a war crimes lawsuit was filed against Silva in New York but had failed because he enjoyed diplomatic immunity at the time.
Silva was appointed as army chief by President Maithripala Sirisena on Wednesday. Considered an outstanding military officer, Silva was the youngest in the Sri Lankan Army to become a major general.
The UN Human Rights Council resolutions have called for accountability over alleged war crimes in the final 2009 battle blamed on both the LTTE and the military. The military has denied the allegations.
The war crimes accusations include bombing of hospitals, blocking humanitarian aid convoys, bombing civilians and murdering those who had surrendered.