UN assures Sri Lanka will address issue on peacekeeping troops

Meanwhile, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITPJ) and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) said in a joint statement today that Sri Lanka needs to respond openly to a Right to Information (RTI) Commission request for information about how it held accountable 134 UN peacekeepers sent home from Haiti a decade ago for alleged child sexual exploitation.The RTI request by a journalist asked for detailed information about the officers repatriated, the allegations against them, the findings of any Court of Inquiry or Court Martial process and details of disciplinary action or prosecutions.“It is not acceptable for the military to hide behind arguments of national security when it comes to transparency about criminal accountability for soldiers sexually violating children they were supposed to protect,” said executive director of the International Truth and Justice Project, Yasmin Sooka. The Army has been facing some hurdles in the recent past when sending troops on UN peacekeeping missions.A confidential UN investigation had identified 134 Sri Lankan troops alleged to have sexually exploited nine Haitian boys and girls from late 2004 to mid 2007. The United Nations has assured Sri Lanka it will look into the issues that arise when Sri Lanka attempts to deploy troops for UN peacekeeping missions. The Army says Yamashita promised the Commander that she would look into pending issues and backlogs in the UN as far as Sri Lankan peacekeeping contingents are concerned. The cordial meet also touched on general matters of relevance to responsibilities and roles of the military in the post-conflict era and peace-building efforts versus security arrangements. The visiting Director, Asia-Pacific Division at the Department of Political Affairs at the United Nations in New York, Ms Mari Yamashita met the Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake at the Army Headquarters, the Army media unit said. “It is ludicrous that the Ministry of Defence is claiming that full transparency – rather thanthe crimes committed – might damage the country’s reputation a decade later; it is this secrecy that damages Sri Lanka’s reputation”. (Colombo Gazette) read more