Canada has imposed sanctions on four Sri Lankan state officials, including former Presidents Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa, over alleged human rights violations during the island nation’s civil conflict from 1983 to 2009.
A statement published by the Canadian foreign ministry on Tuesday (Jan 10) accused the two Rajapaksa brothers, Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake and Lieutenant Commander Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi of committing “gross and systematic violations of human rights” during the period the country was grappling with the armed conflict.
The sanctions will effectively freeze any assets that these four Sri Lankans may hold in Canada and render them inadmissible to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
The Canadian government said the sanctions send a clear message that it would not accept continued impunity for those that have committed gross human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
Canada’s foreign minister, Melanie Joly, who spoke on the sanctions, said this decisive action was taken with the aim of ending international impunity against violators of international law. “Canada stands ready to support Sri Lanka’s path to peace, inclusion and prosperity through the advancement of accountability, reconciliation and human rights, including international assistance to address the domestic crisis.”
In its statement on the sanctions, the Canadian government pointed out that the Sri Lankan government has taken limited meaningful and concrete action to uphold its human rights obligations, despite continued calls from the international community to address accountability, the Canadian government pointed out. “This jeopardizes progress on justice for affected populations, and prospects for peace and reconciliation.”
Canada vowed to continue to collaborate alongside international partners, including through relevant multilateral bodies to advocate for human rights and accountability in Sri Lanka, noting that it is an important step toward securing a safe, peaceful and inclusive future for the country.
Canada, as part of the Core Group on Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council, said it would continue to advocate for the full implementation of resolution 51/1 and support efforts towards attaining accountability and peace on the island.
In its statement, the Canadian government reassured that it supports efforts towards urgent political and economic reforms to alleviate the hardships faced by the people in Sri Lanka, and encouraged the Sri Lankan government to promote democracy, human rights and maintain the rule of law as it works to address this crisis.