The Sri Lankan government has strongly objected to the travel restrictions imposed by the US on the island nation’s Army chief Lt. General Shavendra Silva and his family over “credible” evidence of human rights violations in the decades-long civil war, media reports said on Saturday.
In a statement on Friday night, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said: “The government of Sri Lanka takes strong objection to the imposition of travel restrictions on Lt. Gen. Silva and his immediate family members by the Us, based on independently unverified information.”
The government reiterates that Lt. Gen. Silva was appointed as the Commander of the Army taking into account his seniority and that there were no substantiated or proven allegations of human rights violations against him, the Daily Financial Times quoted the statement as saying.
“His elevation as the Acting Chief of Defence Staff by the current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was on account of his being the most senior serving military officer.
“The Sri Lankan government requests the US to verify the authenticity of the sources of information and to review its decision,” the statement added.
In a statement earlier on Friday, the US State Department said that it imposed the travel restriction on Lt. Gen. Silva, “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”, the Daily Mirror newspaper reported.
“The allegations of gross human rights violations against Silva, documented by the UN and other organisations, are serious and credible… 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,” the Department statement added.
In the final few months of the military offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels in 2009, before the civil war had finally ended, Silva was appointed the commanding officer of the elite 58 Division in Sri Lanka’s northern war-zone.
The Sri Lankan Army defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009 after 26 years of bloody conflict.
According to figures, the fighting killed an estimated 100,000 people and left about 20,000, mostly Tamils, missing in Sri Lanka.