General accused of war crimes appointed Sri Lanka army chief

President Maithripala Sirisena has appointed Major General Shavendra Silva as the new Commander of the Army

President Maithripala Sirisena has appointed Major General Shavendra Silva as the new Commander of the Army

The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) has described Major General Shavendra Silva's appointment to the post of Army Chief as a move which "immensely" damages the country and "marks the end of any reconciliation process".

Swift condemnation followed President Maithripala Sirisena's decision to appoint controversial wartime commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva as Commander of the Army from local and global actors yesterday.

Silva, 55, will take charge as incumbent Army chief Lt Gen Mahesh Senanayake's service was not extended.

A United Nations panel has accused Silva's division of suspected extrajudicial executions of unarmed rebels in the final week of the war which ended in 2009 and systematic torture of people in custody.

Global rights groups have accused the division of violating worldwide human rights laws. Both the Sri Lankan military and the rebels have been accused of war time abuses.

The United Nations has estimated that some 45,000 ethnic Tamil civilians might have been killed in the last months of the war, while other estimates put the number much higher.

His promotion "severely compromises Sri Lanka's commitment to promote justice and accountability", she said, adding that it also set back security sector reform.

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Critics say Silva's appointment as the Army chief may strain Sri Lanka's cooperation in UN Peacekeeping operations and the defence cooperation between the USA and Sri Lanka.

The United States expressed deep concern by Silva's appointment, said the US Embassy here in a statement.

Since 2008, the Leahy Law in the U.S. has banned USA assistance to units of foreign security forces where there is credible information that a member has committed gross violations of human rights.

According to a 2015 investigation by the United Nations office of the high commissioner of human rights, near the end of the war Mr Silva was tasked with capturing the Putumattalan area from the Tamil Tigers.

Mr Silva is respected by many in Sri Lanka, mostly among the ethnic Sinhalese majority.

The CPA report said that in 2012 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights informed the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that "there is at the very least the appearance of a case of global crimes to answer by Mr. Silva".

The organisation noted that his appointment was made ahead of presidential elections due before December 9.

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