Sri Lanka presidential hopeful sued in US over torture and murder charges

Two cases have been filed in the United States against Sri Lanka's wartime top defence official Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for torture and murder.

The brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa is heavily  promoted as the most popular  presidential candidate, by Sinhala nationalists.

Notice had been formally served on Former Defence Sectretary Rajapaksa on Sunday night at a Trader Joe’s parking lot in Pasadena, California.

Reports say that he was on his way to attend an event named "Meet the future president" by Rajapaksa era Sri Lankan consul in Los Angeles Malraj de Silva.

The daughter of an editor murdered during the ex defence secretary's tenure and a Tamil torture survivor have filed the cases.

The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said that it had filed a civil damages case in California against former Sri Lankan defence secretary along with the global law firm Hausfeld, on behalf of a Tamil torture survivor.

Roy Samathanam had filed the complaint in the Central District of California against Gotabhaya  Rajapaksa, who is a dual US - Sri Lankan citizen.

This was after the ITJP and Hausfeld hired private investigators to track down the whereabouts of Rajapaksa who is currently on holiday in California, said ITJP in a press release.

Direct involvement

Roy Samathanam, who is a Canadian national, was detained in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo in September 2007 by the Terrorism Investigation Division of the Sri Lanka police who reported directly to Defence Sectretary  Rajapaksa. Roy Samanthanam was allegedly physically and psychologically tortured and forced to sign a false confession before being released in August 2010 on a plea deal and payment of a fine.

In 2016,  Samathanam won a UN human rights committee case but Sri Lanka has failed to abide by the compensation ruling.

“Mr Rajapaksa is expected to give up his US citizenship to be able to stand in presidential elections, so this was probably the last chance for a long time to begin to hold him accountable ,” said ITJP’s executive director Yasmin Sooka. “We hope other survivors of torture will join the suit and make this a class action”.

The legal papers were filed by Scot Gilmore who also worked on the case of the Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin killed in Syria.

Lasantha Wickrematunge

Another case has also been filed by the daughter of slain Sunday Leader founding editor Lasantha Wickramatunge.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa instigated and authorised the killing of her father, alleges Ahimsa Wickrematunge in her complaint to court for damages requesting a trial by jury.

Ten years ago, on 8th January, Wickrematunge was gunned down in broad daylight in Colombo, after he exposed a controversial MIG aircraft deal that implicated the former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in a kickback scheme.

Five military intelligence officers arrested on suspicion of his murder, were later released on bail.

Frustrated by the inaction of the Sri Lankan government against alleged war criminals, the UN rights chief had earlier called for take  international  action.

“My report records that in the absence of progress member states should consider the using universal jurisdiction principals to prosecute Sri Lanka against credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Michelle Bachelet to the UN Human rights Council in March.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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