Sri Lankan general accused of war abuses appointed army chief

Cheryl Sanders
August 20, 2019

Sri Lanka's president named war veteran Shavendra Silva as the country's army chief Monday, drawing sharp criticism from the United States and the United Nations over the appointment of an officer who has been accused of serious human rights violations. Silva, 55, has denied the accusations.

There were mass atrocities against civilians in Sri Lanka's predominantly Tamil north towards the end of the conflict, with rights groups saying some 40,000 ethnic Tamils were killed by government forces.

Major General Silva joined the Sri Lanka Army as a Cadet Officer in 1984 and held the position of Chief of Staff of Sri Lanka Army prior to this appointment. In 2015, the report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) documented several violations linked to Major General Silva and the 58th Division amounting to war crimes.

The organisation noted that his appointment was made ahead of presidential elections due before December 9.

Former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa is hoping to run for president. The report found evidence that both a hospital in the area as well as a United Nations hub were shelled.

The OHCHR alleges that during the last months of the offensive, hospitals were shelled repeatedly, during which patients were forced to escape, some even carrying their intravenous drips with them.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the party that is the largest representative of the war-torn Northern and Eastern Provinces expressed deep "dismay" about President Sirisena's decision to appoint Lt. Gen. Silva as Commander of the Army. Both the Sri Lankan military and the rebels have been accused of war time abuses. "This appointment undermines Sri Lanka's global reputation and its commitments to promote justice and accountability, especially at a time when the need for reconciliation and social unity is paramount", a statement from the Embassy said.

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