Colombo: Canada sanctioned four Sri Lankan state officials, including Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who are former presidents and also brothers, for human rights abuses committed during the island nation’s civil war.
A statement from Global Affairs Canada, the country’s foreign ministry, said the four individuals were “responsible for gross and systematic violations of human rights during armed conflict in Sri Lanka, which occurred from 1983 to 2009”, which targeted the country’s minority Tamil population.
Mahinda Rajapaksa was in office when a no-holds-barred military campaign wiped out the Tamil Tigers separatist movement in 2009, while Gotabaya helmed the defense ministry.
International observers estimate that up to 40,000 civilians from the ethnic Tamil minority were killed during the war’s final months in an indiscriminate bombing and clearance campaign.
Top Sri Lankan military commanders have since been sanctioned and handed travel bans by Western nations, but Canada’s decision is the first targeting the two members of the powerful political clan.
The measures would “effectively freeze any assets they may hold in Canada and render them inadmissible to Canada,” the statement said.
“These sanctions send a clear message that Canada will not accept continued impunity for those that have committed gross human rights violations in Sri Lanka,” it added.
A former army officer, Gotabaya was the president of Sri Lanka from November 2019 to July 2022. He fled the country after widespread protests over the nation’s worst economic crisis in decades, and later resigned.
His elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was president from 2005 to 2015. He was later appointed prime minister Gotabaya, but also resigned during the 2022 protests.
“Victims and survivors of gross human rights violations deserve justice. That is why Canada continues to call on Sri Lanka to fulfill its commitment to establish a meaningful accountability process,” said the statement from Canada.