The UN Human Rights chief has condemned the pardoning and release of a former Sri Lankan army officer sentenced to death for killing eight Tamil civilians, including four children, during the island's bloody ethnic war in 2000.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) Michelle Bachelet said the presidential pardon is an "affront to victims and yet another example of the failure of Sri Lanka to fulfil its international human rights obligations to provide meaningful accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other gross violations of human rights", the Colombo Gazzete reported.
Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday pardoned former army sergeant Sunil Ratnayake who was sentenced in 2015 for the murder of eight Tamil civilians, including a five-year-old child, after more than a decade long trial.
Five defendants were brought to trial but only Ratnayake was convicted. The conviction was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka in May 2019.
This was one of the rare human rights case from the decades long conflict that had ever reached conviction.
Condemning the pardoning, Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the UNHCHR said the High Commissioner is troubled by reports that the convicted perpetrator of the Mirusuvil massacre has received a Presidential Pardon and was released from jail.
The UN Human Rights chief said that victims of such violations and crimes have the right to a remedy and this includes equal and effective access to justice and reparation, and that perpetrators serve a punishment that is proportionate to the seriousness of their conduct.
"Pardoning one of the sole convicted perpetrators of atrocities committed during the Sri Lankan conflict further undermines the limited progress the country has made towards ending impunity for mass human rights abuse," the UNHCHR said.
Government troops allegedly killed at least 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final stages of the civil war - an allegation the Rajapaksas have denied.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Sri Lanka's main political party for the minority community, condemned what it said was an "opportunistic" decision to release Ratnayake.