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War criminal in London: UK must react immediately

05.04.2012 ( Last modified: 17.07.2017 )

Bern / Geneva / Berlin, April 5, 2012

Following a Guardian report published today, the international human rights organizations Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and TRIAL (Track Impunity Always) repeat their call to the UK government to immediately take measures against a suspected war criminal. Former Major General of the Sri-Lankan army Prasanna De Silva, who is currently serving as defense attaché to the Sri Lankan High Commission in London, is set to return to Sri Lanka.

In today’s article, The Guardian reported on the refusal of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to declare De Silva, who is accused of alleged involvement in war crimes committed during the last months of the Sri Lankan civil war, persona non grata. According to a spokesperson of the Sri Lankan Government, De Silva will shortly be sent back to Sri Lanka, tehreby avoiding being questioned by the british authorities. The report refers tp a 28-pages background dossier prepared by the Society for Threatened Peoples with support of ECCHR and TRIAL.

The submission of this dossier to the FCO and to the Prime Minister on 24 January 2012 has been confirmed to the Guardian by the FCO. Prepared on the basis of authoritative and reliable sources, including the United Nations Panel of Experts report, the dossier includes detailed information on allegedly targeted attacks on the civilian population and hospitals allegedly carried out by troops commanded by Major General De Silva in the North of Sri Lanka. The authors conclude that there is sufficient evidence against Mr. De Silva to prompt a criminal investigation.

The British Government has known about Major General De Silva’s presence for some time. In October 2011 the Foreign Office stated that it was aware of the allegations against Mr. De Silva, but that there was no concrete evidence against him. Furthermore, Mr. De Silva could only be prosecuted in the UK after his diplomatic immunity had been waived.

STP, ECCHR and TRIAL now  publicly call to the UK government to immediately take the indicated measures in order to initiate a criminal investigation before a possible return of De Silva to Sri Lanka.

Regrettably, the Foreign Office has not taken any steps to end Mr. De Silva’s immunity neither after receiving the background dossier in January, nor after a dialogue with the authoring organizations in March.

STP, ECCHR and TRIAL state that “instead of complying with its international obligations to immediately investigate allegations of war crimes, the British government permitted access to its territory for an alleged war criminal and grants him diplomatic immunity from criminal investigations. The British government has tolerated impunity with regard to war crimes committed in Sri Lanka by both parties to the conflict. Suspects of war crimes must no longer profit from diplomatic immunity”.

STP, ECCHR and TRIAL now  publicly call to the UK government to immediately take the indicated measures in order to initiate a criminal investigation before a possible return of De Silva to Sri Lanka.

The British government has in the past expressed its disappointment in the failure of the Sri Lankan authorities to adequately investigate the countless credible allegations of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Sri Lanka. The case of Major General De Silva now presents the opportunity for the British Government to show through concrete judicial and political steps that it is indeed unacceptable for suspects of these crimes to escape justice.

Joint press release of Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and TRIAL (Track Impunity Always).

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