US sanctions Sri Lankan commander over rights abuses

– Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls on Colombo to ‘hold accountable individuals responsible for war crimes ‘

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. sanctioned Friday the commander of Sri Lanka's Army over what it said are well-documented "gross human rights violations."

Shavendra Silva's designation "underscores the importance we place on human rights in Sri Lanka and globally, our concern over impunity for human rights violations and abuses, as well as our support for promoting accountability for those who engage in such acts," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement announcing the blacklisting.

The allegations of Silva's rights abuses documented by the United Nations and other international organizations were deemed "serious and credible" by the State Department.

"We urge the Sri Lankan government to promote human rights, hold accountable individuals responsible for war crimes and human rights violations, advance security sector reform, and uphold its other commitments to pursue justice and reconciliation," Pompeo said.

In addition to serving as the commander of Sri Lanka's Army, Silva is also the country's Acting Chief of Defense Staff.

Silva's blacklisting stems from his involvement in overseeing extrajudicial killings by the 58th Division of the Sri Lanka Army during the final year of the country's civil war in 2009, according to the State Department.

Sri Lanka's civil war lasted for 26 years after beginning in 1983 when insurgents, known as the Tamil Tigers, launched a military campaign to secure a sovereign state for the South Asian island's Tamil minority.

Silva and his immediate family members, who also face sanctions, are now barred from entering the U.S. as a result of Friday's action.