UN sends Sri Lanka peacekeeping commander home over alleged atrocities

A UN peacekeeper from Senegal patrols the streets of Gao in northern Mali (AFP Photo/Souleymane Ag Anara)
The United Nations has asked Sri Lanka to immediately repatriate a commander serving in the peacekeeping force in Mali following allegations that he was linked to atrocities committed during Sri Lanka\’s war with Tamil Tigers.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday that the request to send Lieutenant Colonel Kalana Priyankara Lankamithra Amunupure home was made following "a review of the human rights background of the commander."
The commander of Sri Lanka\’s contingent in the MINUSMA peacekeeping force was screened before he was sent to Mali but "new information recently came to light," Dujarric said, without providing details.
Sri Lankan forces crushed the Tamil Tigers in a no-holds-barred military offensive that ended their long-running guerilla war in May 2009, leaving more than 100,000 people dead.
In the final months of the war, Sri Lankan forces are accused of killing up to 40,000 Tamil civilians.
The expelled commander is said to have led Sri Lankan special forces in operations against Tamil civilians during the brutal, closing chapter of the war.
The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP), a South Africa-based non-governmental organization that documents mass atrocities from Sri Lanka\’s war, in April sent to the United Nations a list of 56 Sri Lankans who should be barred from peacekeeping.
The ITJP charged that UN officials had failed to properly vet Sri Lankan troops for peacekeeping.
The 56 officers and other personnel were either alleged perpetrators or were involved in frontline combat in the final stages of the war, when crimes were committed by security force units.
Dujarric said UN officials were working with the Sri Lankan government and the country\’s human rights commission to set up an "effective domestic screening process."
The United Nations has 15,000 troops and police serving in the peace mission in Mali, which began in 2013 and is considered one of the UN\’s most challenging operations.
Sri Lanka has deployed about 200 troops in MINUSMA and has sent smaller contingents to UN peace operations in Lebanon and in the Central African Republic.

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