A rights group documenting alleged abuses in Sri Lanka has filed a felony grievance with Singapore’s lawyer normal, in search of the arrest of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for his function within the island nation’s decades-long civil warfare.
In its 63-page grievance filed on Saturday, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) stated Rajapaksa dedicated grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions over the past days of a 25-year-long civil warfare when he was the nation’s chief defence official.
Sri Lanka ended the civil warfare between separatist rebels from the ethnic Tamil minority and authorities forces in 2009. Rights teams accused each side of abuses throughout the warfare.
The South Africa-based ITJP argued that based mostly on common jurisdiction, the alleged abuses have been topic to prosecution in Singapore the place the 73-year-old former chief fled after months of unrest over his nation’s worst financial disaster in a long time.
Rajapaksa submitted his resignation from Singapore, a day after fleeing on July 13, when anti-government protesters stormed the workplaces and official residences of the president and the prime minister.
ITJP govt director Yasmin Sooka confirmed submitting the grievance in a phone interview with Al Jazeera on Sunday.
“We believe he has a case to answer. The legal complaint argues that Gotabaya Rajapaksa committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and violations of international humanitarian law and international criminal law during the civil war in Sri Lanka which include murder, execution, torture and inhuman treatment, rape, and other forms of sexual violence, deprivation of liberty, severe bodily and mental harm, and starvation,” she stated.
“Gotabaya in September 2008 ordered the immediate withdrawal of the United Nations and relief agencies from the war zone in order to ensure that there would be no witnesses to the carnage that was unleashed on [Tamil] civilians by the Sri Lankan army. Our submission to the attorney general calls for the arrest, investigation and indictment of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. That is the basis of our case.”
The ITJP assisted in two civil lawsuits in opposition to Rajapaksa, proceedings for considered one of which have been served in a California parking zone in 2019. Rajapaksa was a US citizen on the time.
Both circumstances have been withdrawn after Rajapaksa was granted diplomatic immunity upon turning into president later that yr.
Rajapaksa couldn’t be reached for remark by Sri Lanka’s High Commission in Singapore. He has beforehand strenuously denied allegations he was accountable for rights abuses throughout the warfare.
A spokesperson for Singapore’s lawyer normal didn’t reply to a request for remark. The nation’s overseas ministry has stated Rajapaksa entered the Southeast Asian city-state on a non-public go to and had not sought or been granted asylum.
Shubhankar Dam, a professor on the University of Portsmouth School of Law in Britain who has taught in Singapore, stated whereas its courts have been in a position to strive alleged warfare crimes, genocide, and torture, it has repeatedly said that such jurisdiction ought to solely be invoked because the final resort.
“While neutrality is not officially enshrined in Singapore’s foreign policy, it has long cultivated a form of even-handedness,” Dam stated.
“Any decision to prosecute a former foreign head of state has to be balanced against its foreign policy objectives.”
Saroj Pathirana contributed to this report from Colombo, Sri Lanka