Commanders who allegedly oversaw grave crimes leading anti-terror crackdown

Military commanders appointed to lead a highly sensitive operation in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombings are officers who allegedly oversaw units found by the UN to have committed war crimes or abused children.

In the second week following a series of coordinated bomb blasts, which struck churches and hotes in Sri Lanka killing more than 250 people, the Army Headquarters announced that all Army, Navy, Air Force and Police areas within the Western Province and the north western Puttalam district have been placed under the newly formed Overall Operational Command (OOC).

They will be in control of the deployment of thousands of troops in Sri Lanka engaged in the search and seizure of homes and buildings, enforcing curfew and patrolling civilian areas.

Major General Sathyapriya Liyanage, named in a UN report for commanding a battalion accused of war crimes during the war against Tamil rebels 10 years ago, functions as the overall operational Commander in the establishment.

JDS and the International Truth and Justice Project have compiled a brief report examining the background of the newly appointed commanders tasked with executing the functions of the OOC. 

Read the full report: The Men Now Patrolling Sri Lanka

Child abuse in Haiti

Several of the army generals now in charge of deployments played a pivotal role as commanders in the final phase of the civil war in the north of the island  in 2009, when there were grave violations of international humanitarian law and human rights.

Two of the major generals had served as deputy commanders of Sri Lankan peacekeeper units that were accused of committing systematic rape and sexual exploitation of children in Haiti. In 2015, UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), which investigated allegations concluded that ‘acts of sexual exploitation and abuse (against children) were frequent and occurred usually at night, and at virtually every location where the contingent personnel were deployed.’

One other new appointee was in charge of the “rehabilitation programme” for suspected Tamil ex combatants, which the UN subsequently said constituted arbitrary detention.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.