There is compelling evidence to charge Sri Lanka’s newly appointed secretary of defence, retired Major General Kamal Gunaratne, with war crimes and crimes against humanity. The South Africa based International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) has released a 100-page dossieron the secretary of defence, focusing on his role as the 53 Division commander in the war and the Competent Authority for IDPs and commander of Joseph camp, an army camp notorious for torture after the war. This follows the ITJP’s publication earlier this year of a dossier on Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, whose subsequent promotion to Army Commander, sparked enormous concern from the EU, US and UN.
“There is just as compelling a prima facie case against Kamal Gunaratne as there was against the current Army Commander, Shavendra Silva,” said the ITJP’s executive director, Yasmin Sooka. “Sri Lanka is intentionally and deliberately promoting impunity by appointing alleged war criminals to positions of power,” she added.
As 53 Division commander, Gunaratne led the assault from the southern front on Puthukkudiyiruppu in February 2009, according to his own account, directly receiving orders from the the man who is now President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Gunaratne’s forces were then part of the assaults on Puthukkudiyiruppu, Putumattalan and Mullivaikkal, which involved repeated attacks on civilian hospitals, makeshift hospitals and food distribution points, resulting in tens of thousands of civilian casualties and the destruction of civlian objects.