Sri Lanka: War crimes dossier reveals staggering evidence against top general

Damning details of alleged war crimes by the second highest ranking officer in the Sri Lanka military has been made public.

Publishing a report on Sri Lanka’s Chief of Army Staff Shavendra Silva, Johannesburg based International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) urges the government to suspend the decorated wartime commander.

“Sri Lanka should immediately suspend Shavendra Silva from service pending investigation of the multiple grave allegations made against him by the United Nations, human rights organisations and his victims,” said ITJP.

It also calls upon the United Nations to stop deploying peacekeepers from Sri Lanka in the absence of government action.

“The United Nations should cease all peacekeeping deployment from Sri Lanka so long as its army is overseen by one of the world’s worst alleged war criminals.”

Major General Silva was promoted to Chief of Staff of the Sri Lankan Army in January 2019.

Sri Lanka’s Sinhala press has reported that he was the pick of President Maithripala Sirisena over nine other officers recommended by the army commander, Mahesh Senanayake.

Witness testimonies

Major General Shavendra Silva commanded the 58 Division during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war that ended in a bloody massacre killing at least 70,000 civilians, almost all of them Tamils.

In its latest report running to 137 pages, ITJP details the attacks on a series of towns and villages in the north of Sri Lanka in 2008-9 by the 58 Division which Major General Shavendra Silva commanded.

It amalgamates photographs, contemporaneous SMS and witness testimony, including from insiders, and evidence of official Army releases which were deleted offline after the war to hide the truth, as well as drawing on the findings of past UN investigative reports.

The dossier had been released a week after Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary, Hemasiri Fernando challenged the Tamil diaspora to provide “any valid evidence” on crimes committed by the country’s security forces.

The evidence published by ITJP speaks of indiscriminate and intentional attacks conducted against the civilian population, attacks on hospitals and medical staff, attacks on No Fire Zones and the use of prohibited and indiscriminate weapons.

It also alleges that major General Silva approved of rape and other forms of sexual violence, and torture.

Staggering evidence

The dossier presents the most detailed body of evidence against any Sri Lankan military figure to date.

“There is a staggering amount of evidence in this dossier meticulously collected by my team over many years,” said ITJP’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka.

“Many successful cases at international tribunals or the International Criminal Court had less to work with. There is now no excuse for this man to remain as number two in the Sri Lankan Army; he must be suspended immediately, and a criminal investigation instituted.”

The ITJP also calls upon International powers to act.

“UN Member States should either impose a travel/visa ban on Shavendra Silva or move to arrest him under universal jurisdiction if he enters their territory. Under no circumstances should he be granted immunity,” says ITJP.

Sri Lanka, which has committed itself in 2015 to a UN resolution that calls for accountability, maintains that its troops have not committed any war crimes or crimes against humanity.☐



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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.