UK court orders arrest of Sri Lanka Brigadier

A Sri Lankan diplomat Brigadier Priyanka Fernando  was found guilty by a British court for making multiple throat slitting gestures against Tamil demonstrators outside the High Commission in London on 4 February 2018.

On 21 Monday, the Westminster Magistrate’s court ruled that the former defence attache breached the public order act by intending to causing harassment, alarm and distress with his gestures, which were made after he had taken photos and videoed Tamil protestors.

This is the first time a serving Sri Lanka military officer was found guilty in court outside the country  for threatening Tamil protestors.

The three judge bench said a warrant would be issued with no bail.

The private prosecution was brought by Majuran Sathananthan, Palliya Guruge Vinod Priyantha Perera, and Gokulakrishnan Narayanasamy in London.

Threats to withdraw case

Following the filing of the lawsuit, the complainants families have been threatened allegedly by Sri Lankan security forces, court heard.

Judges were told how all three, and another witness who had photographed the incident, had endured knowing their families in Sri Lanka threatened during the course of the last year as a result of their case. 

In one instance a witness started receiving calls on his phone in Sinhala from anonymous numbers, experiencing as many as 200 missed calls on one night alone.

His parents in Sri Lanka were visited by plain clothes intelligence officers and told that he would be returned to Sri Lanka and killed and should stop the case.

Another witness described how three men had visited his family, asking when he was returning to the island and naming all those involved in the private prosecution.

The witnesses were especially concerned because Brigadier Fernando had taken photographs of them at the protest.

Neither Brigadier Fernando nor his representatives were present in court.

The ruling prevents prevents him from ever coming back to the UK.

War crimes

Lawyers from the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC), which acting on behalf of the complainants plan to approach the British parliament to seek help in bringing Brigadier Fernando to UK.

Speaking to journalists outside Westminister magisrate court, the PILC hailed the judgement as 'a symbolic victory'.

"PILC and the private prosecutors will be appealing to relevant members of parliament to ask questions from both the foreign secretary and the home secretary to see what steps they can take to make connections with the Sri Lankan government and ask for him to be brought back to UK and to face justice to the public order offences that he's been found guilty of," Solicitor Paul Heron told JDS.

The guilty brigadier is alleged to be complicit in war crimes including targeted bombing of hospitals in the bloody war of Sri Lanka that has claimed at least 70,000 civilian lives.

Details of the military career of Brigadier Fernando from a report compiled by JDS and the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) in 2017 has been used by the prosecution.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.