Army withdraws peacekeeping team's chief from Mali
Complaints over his human rights record, 'vetting process did not go through HRCSL'
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.