Mr.Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
2 United NationsPlaza
New York, N.Y.10017
Re: SuspendGeneral Silva’s Credentials to Promote Justice
We write to askyou to urge the United Nations Credentials Committee to recommend that theGeneral Assembly suspend the credentials of General Shavendra Silva to appearat the United Nations as a Representative of Sri Lanka. As you know, General Silva is being sued inthe Southern District Court of New York for the extrajudicial killing of acivilian in the bombing of a hospital and for the torture and extrajudicialkilling of a person hors de combat.
Overwhelmingevidence showing that the Government of Sri Lanka perpetrated war crimes andcrimes against humanity compels the suspension of General Silva’scredentials. This evidence has beencollected under your direction by the Panel of Experts and was presented to youin an in-depth report. That reportidentified serious violations of international law and concluded that SriLanka’s conduct during the war amounted to an assault on the legal regimedesigned to protect civilians and mitigate atrocities during armedconflict. Last month, in anacknowledgement of the severity of the evidence, you forwarded the Panel’sreport to the Human Rights Council. These U.N. efforts have raised victims’ hopesfor justice and accountability for Sri Lanka’s war crime atrocities.
Although the SriLankan Government has an obligation to investigate and redress these crimes, ithas failed to establish a mechanism for accountability that meets internationalstandards, and has instead relied on its widely condemned Lessons Learnt andReconciliation Commission. Rather thaninvestigate General Silva for his responsibility in committing war crimes, theGovernment has rewarded him with a diplomatic position. Similarly, Sri Lankahas posted 22 former high-ranking military officials to diplomatic posts aroundthe world, from the United States to Australia to Germany. Efforts to bring them to justice where theyare posted are now proliferating, as the global movement for accountabilitygrows. Sri Lanka should not be rewardedwith unlimited immunity for war crimes for militarizing its diplomaticpositions.
Inaction regardingGeneral Silva’s credentials would impede the course of justice. Victims of war crimes in Sri Lanka deservebetter from the largest international body designed to protect peace andjustice. The world is closely watchingthese developments. As many do, we fearthat permitting General Silva to retain his credentials would send a message tolaw-breaking governments around the world that the United Nations will notdefend the cause of justice and that it will shelter war criminals andperpetrators of mass atrocities.
By encouraging theCredentials Committee to recommend to the General Assembly that General Silva’scredentials be suspended during the pendency of the New York litigation, youwill protect justice and the rule of law. The plaintiffs in this suit seek only their day in court before a juryof neutral fact-finders — an opportunity that does not exist anywhere else inthe world, currently or for the foreseeable future. If the General Assembly decides to suspend orrevoke General Silva’s credentials, this will help allow a neutral jury toassess the case against him. I urge youto encourage the Credentials Committee to recommend to the General Assemblythat General Silva’s credentials be suspended, and thereby ensure that thevictims of torture and war crimes have their day in court.
SPEAK Human Rightsand Environmental Initiative
UNROW Human RightsImpact Litigation Clinic at
American UniversityWashington College of Law
Centerfor Constitutional Rights
AllardK. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School
WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT)
EuropeanCenter for Constitutional and Human Rights
Campaign Against Criminalising Communities
Society forThreatened Peoples