Details of Lasantha case to be made public
The complaint filed by Ahimsa Wickremetunge against former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the District Court of California is currently under seal and is contents will be made public once it is unsealed, representatives of the US based Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) told RepublicNext.
Nushin Sarkarati, Senior Staff Attorney of the San Francisco based CJA promised to notify Media as soon as it is made public in email replies to questions by RepublicNext received Wednesday morning.
In her plaint Ahimsa is believed to be seeking compensatory and punitive damages from Rajapaksa “for instigating and authorising the extrajudicial killing” of her father former Editor of the SundayLeader Lasantha Wickremetunge.
Attorney Sarkarati wrote that “Civil suits in the US involving foreign human rights abuses can be litigated under a law called the torture victim protection act. This permits any individual to bring a claim involving torture or extrajudicial killing committed under color of foreign law.”
She added that “ US courts can be used to litigate these types of violations when the defendant is present in the US.”
Asked whether his renunciation of US citizenship affects the cases she replied that Rajapaksa’s “citizenship will not affect this litigation.”
Ahimsa’s plaint has been filed on her behalf by CJA.
Presidential hopeful Rajapaksa is facing two civil suits in two separate cases pertaining to his term in office in Sri Lanka as Defense Secretary.
Other than the Wickremetunge case the other is concerning a Tamil torture survivor named Roy Samathanam, a Canadian resident of California.
Samathanam’s case is backed by the International Truth and Justice Project (IJTP) headed by Yasmine Sooka.
Rajapaksa was served summons in both Civil cases on Sunday evening at the parking lot of a Trader Joe’s in Pasadena, California.
Head of the London Centre for IJTP Frances Harrison told RepublicNext that their organisation had hired private detectives to track Rajapaksa’s whereabouts so that the summonses could be served on him. “He had to be on US soil at the time,” she said.
In Ahimsa’s case she is alleging that Rajapaksa is guilty of “instigating and authorising the extrajudicial killing” of her father. She notes that her father was exposing corruption in the country.
In the other case, alleged torture victim Samathanam made the complaint in the Central District of California against Rajapaksa, who is a dual US Sri Lankan citizen.
Samathanam, who is a Canadian national, was detained in Colombo in September 2007 by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of the Sri Lanka police, which reported directly to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a press release from IJTP said.
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 which IJTP says Sri Lanka has failed to abide by, particularly its ruling on compensation.
“Rajapaksa has 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 director Yasmin Sooka.
“We hope other survivors of torture will join the suit and make this a class action” she added.
Unlikely to affect renunciation of citizenship
It is not clear whether this case would in any way affect Rajapaksa’s current moves to renounce his US citizenship in order that he qualifies to contest the forthcoming Presidential elections in Sri Lanka.
IJTP sources said that the timing of the cases had nothing to do with the upcoming elections. “The timing is coincidental and has nothing to do with the elections,”they said. “We had to wait for him to be in the US.”
The only mention of prosecutions in the US Immigration and Nationality Act is as follows:
“Persons who wish to renounce U.S. citizenship should be aware of the fact that renunciation of U.S. citizenship may have no effect on their U.S. tax or military service obligations (contact the Internal Revenue Service or U.S. Selective Service for more information). In addition, the act of renouncing U.S. citizenship does not allow persons to avoid possible prosecution for crimes which they may have committed or may commit in the future which violates United States law, or escape the repayment of financial obligations, including child support payments, previously incurred in the United States or incurred as United States citizens abroad.”