UN asks Sri Lanka to repatriate commander in Mali over human rights record
- Request for Kalana Amunupure to leave West Africa came after media report claiming a commander committed war crimes in country’s 26-year civil war
The United Nations asked the government of Sri Lanka on Friday to immediately repatriate the commander of its 200-strong contingent assigned to the UN peacekeeping force in Mali following a review of his human rights background.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the request for Lieutenant Colonel Kalana Amunupure to leave the troubled West African nation was made “based on recently received information”. He gave no details.
A report in The Guardian newspaper in July quoted a confidential report that claimed a Sri Lankan commander in Mali – who was not named – is alleged to have committed war crimes during Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels that ended in 2009.
It said the report was produced by the South-Africa based International Truth and Justice Project, and also cited other Sri Lankans taking part in UN peacekeeping operations.
Sri Lanka’s UN mission said the ambassador was not available to comment on the UN decision.
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The Sri Lanka Army called the deployment to Mali “one more feather in its cap” when it was set to start sending the 200-strong Combat Convoy Company to serve in the UN peacekeeping mission last November. It said Sri Lankan troops were also taking part in other UN peacekeeping missions including in Lebanon and South Sudan.
Sri Lanka has faced years of criticism for dismissing calls by the United Nations and foreign governments for an independent inquiry into alleged war crimes and other alleged abuses committed by both sides during the civil war.
The Tamil Tiger rebels were designated a terrorist organisation after a wave of suicide bombings, and were also accused of using child soldiers and killing Tamil political rivals.
The International Truth and Justice Project said in a press release in April that it sent the UN a confidential list of more than 50 names of Sri Lankan paramilitary police from a Special Task Force who should be barred from taking part in UN peacekeeping missions because they were either alleged perpetrators or frontline combatants at the end of the war when security force units reportedly committed systematic crimes.
The group said its investigators have been documenting violations of international humanitarian and human rights law since 2013 and “now have the largest database of sworn testimony regarding the final war and its aftermath held outside Sri Lanka”.