Asia-Pacific

New Sri Lankan army chief rejects claims of war abuse

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Sri Lanka's new army chief, Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva has dismissed claims of abuses under his command in the final stages of the country's civil war.

Sri Lanka's newly appointed army chief has denied accusations of rights abuses under his command during the country's civil war.

Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, who became army commander last week, faces allegations of grave rights abuses during the war, which ended in 2009 when government forces defeated ethnic Tamil rebels fighting to create a separate state.

"I, of course, totally deny those allegations," Silva told reporters at his first media briefing since his appointment. "Those are allegations. Anyone can make any allegations."

Lt. General Shavendra Silva.
Lt. General Shavendra Silva.
EPA

The UN human rights chief, the United States and the European Union expressed concern last week about Silva's selection, saying it undermines the post-war justice and reconciliation process which the government has promised to undertake.

Silva was in charge of the 58th Division, one of the groups that encircled the final stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels in the last stages of the war.

According to a 2015 investigation by the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Silva was tasked with capturing the Putumattalan area from the Tamil Tigers. It found evidence that both a hospital and a UN hub were shelled, with witnesses saying cluster-type munitions were used.

Sri Lanka's newly appointed army commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva.
Sri Lanka's newly appointed army commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva.
AP

The Sri Lankan government promised the UN Human Rights Council in 2015 that it would investigate the allegations, but nothing has been done so far.

The United Nations has said some 45,000 Tamil civilians may have been killed in the final months of the conflict.

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