Army with­draws peace­keep­ing team's chief from Mali

Com­plaints over his hu­man rights record, 'vet­ting process did not go through HRCSL'

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - FRONT PAGE - By Asiri Fer­nando

The Sri Lanka Army will com­ply with a United Na­tions re­quest to with­draw the Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cer of its peace­keep­ing con­tin­gent in Mali but will ap­peal the de­ci­sion and, if the Lieu­tenant Colonel is cleared of charges, seek his reins t ate­ment, Mil­i­tary Spokesman Sumith Ata­p­attu said.

The UN on Fri­day re­quested the Sri Lanka Gov­ern­ment to im­medi- at e ly repa­tri­ate the Com­man­der of its UN peace­keep­ing force in Mali, fol­low­ing a re­view of his hu­man rights back­ground. For­eign me­dia named him as Lt Col Kalana Amunupure.

UN spokesper­son Stephane Du­jar­ric on Fri­day told jour­nal­ists that the repa­tri­a­tion would be done at Sri Lanka's cost, and ac­cord­ing to nor­mal pro­ce­dures. He claimed that the de­ci­sion to repa­tri­ate him was

made by the UN fol­low­ing a re­view based on "re­cently re­ceived in­for­ma­tion".

Mean­while, Sri Lanka's Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion ( HRCSL) which has agreed to vet Sri Lankan per­son­nel nom­i­nated for UN peace­keep­ing mis­sions, said yes­ter­day that it did not have in­for­ma­tion about the case. “This is not some­thing that went through the Com­mis­sion,” HRCSL Chair­per­son Deepika Udagama said.

“Sri Lanka’s con­tin­gent for Mali first came for re­view of the Com­mis­sion in early 2017,” she said. “We went through it, cleared many and wanted fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about oth­ers. The Army Com­man­der at the time Maj Gen Chris­han­tha de Silva wrote to us and said the UN had vet­ted them al­ready, so ‘ we don’t need your ser­vices’.”

“So we stopped vet­ting the en­tire con­tin­gent. The UN and the Army han­dled it,” she said.

Dr. Udagama also said that when Sri Lanka Per­ma­nent Mis­sion in New York in­formed the HRCSL of the early repa­tri­a­tion, it checked the de­tails and found that Lt Col Amunupure had not been in the orig­i­nal list sent to the Com­mis­sion for vet­ting. “It’s be­tween the Army and the UN,” she said.

In April a South African- based NGO, The In­ter­na­tional Truth and Jus­tice Project ( ITJP), sent to the UN a list of 56 Sri Lankans whom it claimed should be barred from peace­keep­ing du­ties. It com­prised names of Spe­cial Task Force ( STF) of­fi­cers it be­lieved were in­volved in or were in front­line ser­vice dur­ing the last stages of the war. The UN failed to prop­erly vet Sri Lankan troops be­ing sent for peace­keep­ing du­ties, the NGO claimed.

The Sri Lanka Army noted that it had and would in the fu­ture co­op­er­ate with the UN to vet troops. Ear­lier this year, the HRCSL at the in­vi­ta­tion of the Gov­ern­ment be­gan a vet­ting process for Sri Lankan per­son­nel se­lected for peace­keep­ing du­ties. The UN spokesper­son said the UN Sec­re­tar­iat re­mained en­gaged with the Per­ma­nent Mis­sion of Sri Lanka on the mat­ter.

How­ever, HRCSL vet­ting of a con­tin­gent for Le­banon is cur­rently on hold till Stan­dard Op­er­at­ing Pro­ce­dures are agreed upon by all par­ties con­cerned, in­clud­ing the Sri Lanka mil­i­tary.

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