COLOMBO – Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena named on Monday General Shavendra Silva – accused of human rights violations during the civil war – as the chief of the country’s army.
Sirisena’s decision to appoint Silva was met with criticism from the United States and the United Nations.
“Major General Shavendra Silva was appointed as the 23rd Commander of the Sri Lanka Army,” the president’s office said in a statement. “He received his letter of appointment from President Maithripala Sirisena this morning.”
The US embassy in Sri Lanka said it was “deeply concerned” about the move.
“The allegations of gross human rights violations against him, documented by the United Nations and other organizations, are serious and credible,” the embassy said in a statement.
“This appointment undermines Sri Lanka’s international reputation and its commitments to promote justice and accountability, especially at a time when the need for reconciliation and social unity is paramount,” the statement continued.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet meanwhile expressed serious concern about the appointment.
Silva, according to the UN, commanded Sri Lanka’s 58th Division during the final stages of the civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which ended in 2009.
The war left between 60,000-100,000 people dead, a figure that has not been officially verified.
The UN has repeatedly called for an investigation into these alleged crimes and a speedy legal process.