The commander of the Sri Lankan contingent in the UN peacekeeping operations in Mali has been ordered back home after a review of his human rights record, according to Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The decision to send Lt. Col. Kalana Priyankara Lankamithra Amunupure back was made after new information about him was received by the UN, Dujarric said on Friday,
Besides the usual vetting for all peacekeepers, “there were some extra procedures done with the Sri Lankan contingents”, he said.
Amunupure was reportedly involved in atrocities against Tamils during the civil war in Sri Lanka when tens of thousands of civilians perished and the UN has said that war crimes were committed.
A human rights group, International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP), said in an April press release from London that it had sent the UN a list of 56 paramilitary Special Task Force (STF) personnel who should be barred from serving as peacekeepers because of their human rights record.
It said they “are either alleged perpetrators or were involved in frontline combat in the final stages of the war when the UN says system(ic) crimes were committed by security force units”.
While ITJP kept the names confidential, its Executive Director Yasmin Sooka, said at that time: “One STF officer who appears currently to be serving in a UN peacekeeping mission in Africa is alleged to have ordered summary executions of Tamils in the East of Sri Lanka in 2006-7.”
Sooka said her organisation had a “substantial database of evidence” of human rights violations and was ready to help UN investigations.
ITJP also released a report in April about human rights violations and extra-judicial killings by the Special Task Force “based primarily on the testimony of Sinhalese insiders who worked for the unit in the past and on the testimony of former Tamil paramilitaries, who worked with them”.
Of Sri Lanka’s 682 peacekeepers, about 200 are deployed in the West African nation with the operation known as UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali.