Key dates in Sri Lanka's contributions to UN peacekeeping

AP News
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Posted: May 27, 2017 1:14 AM
Key dates in Sri Lanka's contributions to UN peacekeeping

Sri Lanka participated in years of U.N. peacekeeping operations while the country was embroiled in a brutal, generation-long civil war. Yet, even as Sri Lanka refused to investigate alleged war crimes by its troops during that conflict, the U.N. continued to deploy thousands of Sri Lankan peacekeepers to guard some of the world's most vulnerable populations.

Key dates in Sri Lanka's recent history of conflict and contributions to U.N. peacekeeping:

1948 — The United Nations deploys its first-ever peacekeeping mission to the Middle East.

1960 — Sri Lanka makes its first U.N. peacekeeping contribution, sending six soldiers to the U.N. mission in Congo.

1983 — Civil war breaks out in Sri Lanka, with rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam fighting government forces for an ethnic Tamil homeland in the island's north and east.

1987 — Indian peacekeepers begin a three-year deployment in Sri Lanka.

2004 — Sri Lanka opens a U.N. peacekeeper training camp in the hillside resort town of Kukuleganga.

2004 — Sri Lanka sends an infantry battalion of 950 troops to serve in the U.N. mission in Haiti. Over the next four years, it will join seven other missions — in South Sudan, Congo, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Liberia, Timor and Western Sahara.

2005 — The U.N. acknowledges sexual abuse and exploitation are a problem within some of its peacekeeping missions, and pledges to improve transparency, accountability and justice on the matter.

2005 — Mahinda Rajapaksa is elected Sri Lanka's president, and leads the military campaign against the Tamil rebels.

2007 — A U.N. investigation details evidence of a sex ring involving at least 134 Sri Lankan military troops and at least nine Haitian children. Sri Lanka responds by repatriating 114 peacekeepers still on deployment. Years later, it acknowledges it forced one officer to retire and dismissed one soldier from service, while imposing unspecified punishments on up to 21 others. It refuses to give the AP any details on how it investigated the case, or to explain why so few were punished or what exactly those punishments entailed.

2009 — Sri Lankan troops declare victory in the civil war after defeating the Tamil rebels. The government has since refused all demands for an independent investigation into widespread allegations of war crimes and abuses by Sri Lankan soldiers during the conflict.

2013 — An 18-year-old woman in Haiti alleges she was raped and sodomized by a Sri Lankan peacekeeper. Sri Lanka sends a general to investigate. He does not interview the woman or medical staff before dismissing the case, allowing the soldier to remain in the military.

2015 — Sri Lanka formally ends its mission contribution to Haiti, but still has peacekeepers elsewhere, including Lebanon and South Sudan.

2015 — Sri Lankan voters oust Rajapaksa and elect his former ally Maithripala Sirisena, who campaigned on a platform of transparency and openness, acknowledging that the country's failure to ensure post-war justice and reconciliation had hurt its global standing.

2016 — The U.N. invites Sri Lanka to join its mission in Mali, one of the world's most dangerous peacekeeping missions. Initially, officials say up to 1,000 soldiers will be deployed, but that number is later revised to around 200.