Gotabaya Rajapaksa 1

Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a Sri Lankan politician and former military officer who served as the eighth President of Sri Lanka from 2019 until his resignation on 14 July 2022.

Gotabaya Rajapakshe  is believed to have directly overseen the country’s police and military, which have been accused by the UN, human rights groups and Sri Lanka’s own investigative agencies of crimes including torture, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings both during the Tamil conflict and in the years since it ended in 2009.

Rajapaksa previously served as Sri Lanka’s defense secretary and oversaw a military campaign that saw hospitals shelled and tens of thousands of Tamils killed. He has repeatedly vowed not to prosecute those accused of war crimes, which includes senior military generals and his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Efforts have continued across Scotland and around the world to ensure Rajapaksa faces justice, with a legal submission filed to the International Criminal Court naming him as a violator of international law.

One relates to Roy Samathanam, a Canadian citizen of Tamil origin who a UN human rights committee has concluded was detained by Sri Lankan counter-terrorism police and tortured for three years on baseless accusations of aiding the Tigers.

Gotabaya, 69, was a US citizen at the time of the alleged offenses, but would have to give up his American citizenship if he ran for president later this year. “So this was probably the last chance for a long time to begin to hold him accountable,” said Yasmin Sooka, the executive director of the International Truth and Justice Project, the group bringing the torture suit.

The International Organization of Truth and Justice Project say that two cases have been filed against former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa at courts in the United States of America (USA) in connection with the murder of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunga and another charge by 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 Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Roy Samathanam was 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.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa faces ten new charges of overseeing torture and sexual violence during his period as defence secretary.

The charges were filed by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on June 26 and document the horrific abuses the ten plaintiffs faced. This includes being branded with hot metals rods, whipped with cables, asphyxiated by plastic bags soaked in petrol, and six of them were repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted. The ten plaintiffs include three women; eight are Tamil and two Sinhalese. These documents are now available for the public domain.

The ITJP (International Truth and Justice Project) and Hausfeld, an international law firm, have brought these cases forward through a six-year-long investigation. They report that “the latest allegations contained details of abuses that occurred between 2008 and 2013 in army camps, including the notorious Joseph Camp in Vavuniya, police stations in the capital Colombo and Pulmoddai, and at Boossa detention site in Galle”.

Scott Gilmore, an attorney for the victims, told The Associated Press;

“This is not a case of isolated incidents. These are not random occurrences […] This was an institutional practice amounting to crimes against humanity and the head of that institution was the defense secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa”.

The lawsuit states that Gotabaya “knew or should have known that torture and sexual violence was being committed on a mass scale” and “instead of preventing these abuses he encouraged or tolerated them. Instead of prosecuting the perpetrators, he obstructed justice and threatened witnesses with death”.

Yasmin Sooka stated that since “perpetrators remain in key investigative positions in the police force shows why Sri Lankans have been unable to achieve justice […] Bringing a case abroad is their only option”.

The lawsuit further identifies several high-ranking Sri Lankan officials who were implicated in these abuses including the top investigative police officer, Nishanthe de Silva; who was alleged to have tortured a plaintiff twice in Colombo. Prasanna de Alwis, the former Officer in Charge of the Terrorism Investigation Division in Colombo, was also accused to have ordered and sometimes participated in torture. Both the top police officer and counterterrorism investigative chief were alleged to have received directions from Gotabaya directly.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa faces ten new charges of overseeing torture and sexual violence during his period as defence secretary.

The charges were filed by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on June 26 and document the horrific abuses the ten plaintiffs faced. This includes being branded with hot metals rods, whipped with cables, asphyxiated by plastic bags soaked in petrol, and six of them were repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted. The ten plaintiffs include three women; eight are Tamil and two Sinhalese. These documents are now available for the public domain.

The ITJP (International Truth and Justice Project) and Hausfeld, an international law firm, have brought these cases forward through a six-year-long investigation. They report that “the latest allegations contained details of abuses that occurred between 2008 and 2013 in army camps, including the notorious Joseph Camp in Vavuniya, police stations in the capital Colombo and Pulmoddai, and at Boossa detention site in Galle”.

Kumarathasan Rasingam, Secretary, Tamil Canadian Elders for Human Rights Org.


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