Sri Lanka offers attack aircraft to UN
[TamilNet, Thursday, 16 June 2011, 13:04 GMT]
Sri Lanka has offered to supply the United Nations with three Mi-24 attack helicopters and a pair of fix wing aircraft for peacekeeping duties, but a decision to accept would not only generate controversy, but potentially trigger a US review of Sri Lanka's human rights conduct, Foreign Policy magazine reported Wednesday. The Sri Lanka pledge appears calculated to improve Sri Lanka's relationship with the United Nations at a time when it is facing mounting UN pressure to hold alleged war criminals within the army's ranks accountable, UN officials told FP magazine.
Under the so-called Leahy law, written by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) the US State Department is required to vet the human rights records of foreign military contingents serving in UN peacekeeping missions, if there is reason to believe they may have been engaged in atrocities.
Sri Lanka’s attack helicopters and planes were integral to the mass bombardment from air sea and land that killed 40,000 Tamil civilians in the first five months of 2009.
Last month, the United Nations signed a ‘routine’ agreement with Sri Lanka so that resources can be accessed when needed for peacekeeping.
This is despite 20% of a Sri Lankan peacekeeping force in Haiti being sent back in 2007 after UN investigations confirmed reports of sexual exploitation of children, and there having been no prosecutions against the soldiers once repatriated.
In its own investigation, the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) concluded that “acts of sexual exploitation and abuse (against children) were frequent and occurred usually at night, and at virtually every location where the contingent personnel were deployed.”
“In exchange for sex, the children received small amounts of money, food, and sometimes mobile phones,” OIOS said. It added that charges should include rape because the sexual exploitation involved children.
However, the UN said, responsibility for punishing the troops rested with Sri Lanka.
But Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, responding at the time to the reports, said of the troops: “I respect them profoundly and consider them as the most disciplined Forces in the world. They have not killed or raped anybody.”