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Ahimsa gets right to seek justice for her father after appeal Court decision

Former Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrenatunge

A San Francisco court has vacated the lower court’s ruling that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is entitled to common law foreign official immunity for acts committed while he was Secretary of Defense of Sri Lanka a media release from California Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) said.

The decision by the Appeal Court comes on a lawsuit filed by Ahimsa Wickrematunge, daughter of murdered journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge last April.

She sought to hold the current President responsible for his alleged involvement in the assassination of her father, and in the widespread and systematic targeting of journalists perceived to critical of the government.

Ahimsa is represented by CJA and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also granted Ahimsa’s request to dismiss her case without prejudice, as Rajapaksa’s accession to the presidency of Sri Lanka last November gave him immunity from suits in US courts for so long as he remains president.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision clears the way for future litigation against Rajapaksa once he no longer enjoys immunity as a head of state. 

“This ruling is a victory, and a message to Gotabaya Rajapaksa: His maneuvers to escape justice for his role in my father’s assassination continue to fail. He will not enjoy immunity forever, and his presidency can only delay, not prevent, accountability. Those of us who lost everything to his barbarism and bloodshed will never give up our fight for justice,” Ahimsa was quoted as saying in a media statement issued by the CJA.

“Lasantha’s killing was neither authorized nor ratified by the Sri Lankan government, and the violent targeting of journalists should never be considered legitimate acts of state,” said CJA Legal Director Carmen Cheung. “We are pleased that Ahimsa will have the opportunity to bring her case again.” 

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