“I am designating Shavendra Silva making him ineligible for entry into the U.S. due to his involvement in extrajudicial killings during Sri Lanka’s Civil War. The U.S. will not waver in its pursuit of accountability for those who commit war crimes and violate humanrights,” U.S. Secretary of State Micheal R. Pompeo said in a tweet yesterday.
The U.S. is banning Sri Lanka’s newly appointed Army Chief and his immediate family members from entering that contry. Sri Lanka has strongly condemned the move.
Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva was appointed Commander of the Sri Lanka Army in August 2019 and as Acting Chief of Defense Staff in December 2019, soon after the new president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the brother of the new Prime Minister and former President of the country in whose term Silva has allegedly violated human rights, took oaths last November.
In an official statement Pompeo said the move was taken ‘as required under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, due to credible information of his involvement, through command responsibility, in gross violations of human rights, namely extrajudicial killings, by the 58th Division of the Sri Lanka Army during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s Civil War in 2009’.
He added that the allegations against Silva are ‘serious and credible’, and his designation highlights the value the U.S. place on human rights.
“Our concern over impunity for human rights violations and abuses, as well as our support for promoting accountability for those who engage in such acts,” he said adding, “We urge the Sri Lankan government to promote human rights, hold accountable individuals responsible for war crimes and human rights violations, advance security sector reform, and uphold its other commitments to pursue justice and reconciliation”.
Refuting the move Sri Lanka Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Public Diplomacy Division expressed Sri Lanka’s ‘strong objection’ to the travel restriction on Silva and his immediate family members, which it said was imposed based on ‘independently unverified information’.
Sri Lanka requested the U. S. to verify the authenticity of the sources of information and to review its decision. According to Pompeo the move was taken after studying allegations of gross human rights violations ‘documented by the United Nations and other organizations’.
Sri Lanka also explained that Silva was given his new position by President Rajapaksa based on his seniority in the military. It also said the timing of the announcement of U.S.’s decision was of concern.