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U.S. sanctions 2 Sri Lankan military officers over human rights violations

Sri Lanka's Army Chief Shavendra Silva (C) arrives at the 40th-anniversary celebration of the Sri Lanka Commando Regiment held in Colombo, Sri Lanka on March.08.2020 (Photo by Akila Jayawardana/NurPhoto)

Chandana Hettiarachchi, and Sunil Ratnayake were among several officers from 12 countries who were sanctioned by the U.S.

On the 10th of December 2021, the United States of America (U.S.) sanctioned two Sri Lankan military officials for accountability of ‘gross human rights violations’, banning them and their immediate family from entering the U.S. (The Hindu, 2021). The two Sri Lankan officers were among 12 other government officials from countries including Uganda, China and Belarus (Economy Next, 2021).

The U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, expressed that the action is taken under the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriation Act, which ‘(…) provides that in cases where there is credible information that officials of foreign governments have been involved in a gross violation of human rights or significant corruption’ those individuals and their families can be barred from entering the U.S. (Economy Next, 2021). 

The U.S. has imposed sanctions on two Sri Lankan military officers, including a murder convict pardoned by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, for human rights violations, banning them and their immediate family members from entering America.

Chandana Hettiarachchi, a Naval officer, and Sunil Ratnayake, a former staff sergeant of the Sri Lankan Army, were among several officers from 12 countries who were sanctioned by the U.S. over accountability for “gross violations of human rights”.

Hettiarachchi was involved in the “flagrant denial of the right to liberty of at least eight ‘Trincomalee 11’ victims, from 2008 to 2009,” the U.S. state department said in a statement issued on Friday, coinciding with the International Human Rights Day.

The ‘Trincomalee 11’ case pertains to the abduction and murder of 11 Tamil youths from Trincomalee district. They were killed in Naval custody after they had been abducted for extortion of money, news website colombogazette.com reported.

Ratnayake was involved in the “extrajudicial killings of at least eight Tamil villagers in December 2000”, the statement said.

Ratnayake was sentenced to death by a Lankan court for killing the eight Tamil civilians, including four children, following which he moved the Supreme Court. The apex court in 2019 unanimously rejected the officer’s appeal and upheld the death penalty.

However, President Rajapaksa last year pardoned Ratnayake and ordered his release from prison.

The U.S. state department in 2020 has also sanctioned the current Sri Lankan Army chief Gen. Shavendra Silva on allegations of war crimes committed during the final phase of the armed conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009.

According to the Lankan government figures, over 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts including the three-decade brutal war with the LTTE in the north and east, which claimed at least 100,000 lives.

The Tamils alleged that thousands were massacred during the final stages of the war that ended in 2009 when the government forces killed Prabhakaran.

The Sri Lankan Army denies the charge, claiming it as a humanitarian operation to rid the Tamils of LTTE’s control.

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