The Canadian government announced Tuesday that it had placed sanctions on four Sri Lankan officials, including former Presidents Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa, in response to the Sri Lankan government’s crackdown on human rights during the Sri Lankan civil war between 1983 and 2009.
The sanctions impose restrictions under Section 2 of the Special Economic Measures Act, which would freeze a sanctioned individual’s assets and stop them from entering Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
A statement released by Global Affairs Canada said that “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.”
This latest action warns Sri Lankan authorities that they cannot continue to act with impunity, and any state regardless of where they are will hold the authorities accountable for their actions. The statement also reiterated Canada’s commitment to working with its international partners to ensure accountability for human rights violations ensuring the country continues to exist as a functioning democracy.
Canada has previously shown it is willing and able to act on Sri Lanka’s crisis as part of the Core Group on Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council to see the “full implementation of resolution 51/1” which:
Calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure the prompt, thorough and impartial investigation and, if warranted, prosecution of all alleged crimes relating to human
rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law, including for longstanding emblematic cases, with the full participation of victims and their representatives.
This comes amid a political and economic crisis that started in 2019 which was exacerbated by fuel and food shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis led to anti-government protests which saw the resignation of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.