Amnesty for Sri Lanka’s military deserters

August 2, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka has offered an amnesty to tens of thousands of soldiers who deserted the army, a spokesman said Sunday, under reforms following the end of the war with separatist Tamil rebels. Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said troops who were absent without leave could report back to their units and be officially discharged without penalty.

“They must bring all their documents and return whatever is due to the army and then they will be granted an honourable discharge,” Nanayakkara told AFP.

The move comes after government forces defeated the Tamil Tiger separatists in May after decades of bloody ethnic conflict.

In 2001, the army had about 51,000 deserters on its books.

Despite the end of the fighting, the military wants to recruit new troops to fill vacancies and to be deployed in areas of the north and east captured from the Tamil rebels. Last week, the government freed 1,800 jailed military deserters as part of a presidential amnesty.