U.S. Govt has issued a Travel Ban on Sri Lanka’s Army Chief Lt Gen. Shavendra Silva

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News Desk

The Ban order was released by US govt on 14 February 2020. The army chief and his immediate family members are now prohibited from travelling to the U.S. It happened due to his alleged war crimes committed during the last days of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009.

The travel restriction on the General is the first significant international penalty to be imposed on a Sri Lankan official over atrocities committed during the country’s 26-year civil war. The civil war ended in 2009. • The United Nations estimates that up to 40,000 Tamil civilians died in those final stages, many in extrajudicial killings. However, Sri Lankan government has denied such accusations.

Photo-1: President Gotabaya Rajapaksha

The Accusations against Lt.Gen Silva is related to extra judicial killing. Silva led 58th Division of SL army had been fighting against Tamil Tiger rebels in the final phases of Sri Lanka’s civil war. Thousands of civilians were killed in the last phases of the conflict.

Photo-2: Sri Lanka’s civil war

In 2015, the UN documented war crimes linked to Silva, including intentional and indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations in Killinochchi and other areas. Evidence showed attacks on hospitals, no-fire zones, UN bases, and areas housing women, children, and the elderly. Maj.Gen. Silva made an controversial comment at that time, “Our aim was not to gain ground but to have more kills.” UN panel accused Silva’s division of suspected extrajudicial executions of unarmed rebels in the final week of the war. Silva is also accused of systematically torturing people in government custody.

Photo-3: Gen Silva

Despite various reports against him, Gen Silva was rewarded. In Jul 2010 he was promoted as the youngest Major General in the Sri Lankan Army and became the Operations Director. Silva was also  appointed Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UNHQ with the rank of Ambassador.

Photo-4: Gen Silva’s New Appointment as Army Commander

Silva’s appointment as army commander in August 2019 drew sharp criticism from the EU, USA and UN. Later on, UN suspended the Sri Lankan army from its peacekeeping operations. UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the promotion of Lieutenant-General Silva “severely” compromised Sri Lanka’s commitment to promote justice and undermined reconciliation efforts “in the eyes of victims and survivors who suffered greatly in the war”.

It is to be mentioned that Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed another retired general accused of war crimes, Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, as defence secretary. India has not taken an adversarial position on the allegations of human rights violations. Rather, it has chosen the more pragmatic approach of engaging with the Sri Lankans, keeping in mind its own strategic and national interests.

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