Worrying signs of accountability - HRW
The Sri Lankan Government's appointment to Parliament of the former
Army Chief whose forces were implicated in widespread abuses contradicts
pledges to investigate alleged war crimes, Human Rights Watch said on
Pix: ANCL Media Library
On February 9, the United National Party of Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe appointed Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka to Parliament as a
National List member for a seat vacated by the death of an incumbent.
Fonseka was the commander of the Sri Lankan Army from December 2005
until the defeat of the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
in May 2009.
During the final months of the fighting, Sri Lankan Forces under
Fonseka's command were implicated in numerous instances of unlawful
shelling of civilians and hospitals, rape and other sexual violence, and
the summary execution of prisoners.
The government's failure to prosecute those responsible for serious
crimes led to an October 2015 United Nations Human Rights Council
resolution calling for justice and accountability, which the Sri Lanka
"Fonseka's appointment signals that the government may protect senior
military leaders suspected of widespread abuses," said Brad Adams, Asia
Director for Human Rights Watch.
"The government should meaningfully demonstrate to the Sri Lankan
people and the UN that it's serious about accountability and not on the
road to a whitewash."
After the end of the war, Fonseka challenged then-President Mahinda
Rajapaksa in the 2010 Presidential Elections.
Following his defeat he was briefly jailed by Rajapaksa on spurious
In March 2015, President Maithripala Sirisena gave Fonseka a full
pardon for his criminal conviction and then promoted him to the rank of
Field Marshal, making him the first Sri Lankan army officer to hold that
"Fonseka's appointment is a breach of trust for victims and families
who believed in this government's commitment to deliver justice for war
crimes," Adams said.
"President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe are sending
worrying signals on accountability at a time when they should be
presenting themselves as leaders determined to achieve justice for all
Sri Lankans," Adams said. "By giving Fonseka a seat in parliament and
the highest military rank, they threaten the goodwill their government
has generated since coming to power."