Colombo: Condemning the appointment of war crimes accused Lt Gen Shavendra Silva as Sri Lanka's new Army chief, a group of UN experts have said that it is an affront to the victims of the civil war and a "harrowing" sign of perpetuation of impunity in the country.
Lt Gen Silva was named as the new Army Commander by President Maithripala Sirisena last week, evoking strong criticism by several countries, rights organisations and the minority Tamils. Lt Gen Silva was the Commanding Officer of the 58 Division of the Army during the last stages of the battle against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels in 2009.
UN reports have accused him and his troops of attacking civilians, hospitals and stopping humanitarian supplies to trapped Tamil civilians. In 2012, Lieutenant General Silva was removed from the UN Special Advisory Group on Peace Keeping Operations due to the allegations. He has dismissed the allegations of human rights abuses, describing the military actions as a "humanitarian operation."
The UN experts in a statement on Tuesday said, "The appointment of Lieutenant General Silva to the highest ranks in Sri Lankan's Army, while facing allegations of this nature, is an affront to the victims and a harrowing sign of the perpetuation of impunity in the country, which risks undermining the trust of Sri Lankan society on state institutions and fuelling further destabilisation.
They claimed that the allegations against Silva and his division have not been properly investigated to date.
Referring to the UN rights body resolutions demanding accountability to war crimes We express serious concern at the lack of progress in investigating and prosecuting these crimes, and in reforming the country's security sector despite the serious allegations against some of its members."
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has also criticised Silva's appointment as Army Commander, saying it was a serious affront to the Tamil People.
"The statement was issued by Fabian Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition; Bernard Duhaime (Chair), Tae-Ung Baik (Vice Chair), Ms Houria Es-Slami, Luciano Hazan and Henrikas Mickevicius (members) of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.