WASHINGTON D.C: Three Tamil plaintiffs whose relatives were killed in three different incidents, all considered to be war-crimes, filed a civil case in the District Court of District of Columbia against Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa Friday at around 4:00 p.m, the attorney for the plaintiffs and former Assistant Deputy Attorney General of the US, Mr Bruce Fein, said in a release sent to the media in the U.S. The legal action was sponsored by Tamils Against Genocide (TAG), a US-based activist group. The plaintiffs seek $30m as damages through six counts of violations of the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA).
The Complaint alleges multiple violations of the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA) based on Sri Lanka’s President Rajapaksa’s command responsibility for the extrajudicial killings of Ragihar Manoharan, the son of Plaintiff Dr. Kasippillai Manoharan, of Premas Anandarajah, a humanitarian aid worker for Action Against Hunger, and husband of Plaintiff Kalaiselvi Lavan, and four members of the Thevarajah family, all relatives of Plaintiff Jeyakumar Aiyathurai.
Ragihar was one of the five students extra-judicially executed by the Sri Lanka Army soldiers in January 2006. Anandarajah was one of the seventeen staff of the Action Against Hunger (ACF), again extra-judicially executed during the war in the east during June 2006. Jeyakumar’s relatives were killed by an exploding shell that landed inside the safety-bunker the family was hiding from the discriminate artillery attack by the SLA situated around the No Fire Zone demarcated by the Colombo government during the last phases of the war.
“(Sri Lanka’s) President Rajapaksa will not escape the long arm of justice secured by the Torture Victims Protection Act by hiding in Sri Lanka. Extrajudicial killings under color of law are universal torts. If President Rajapaksa refuses to defend against the Complaint, a default judgment will be sought,” TAG’s attorney Fein said in a statement.
Professor Francis Boyle who is an expert in international law and teaches at the College of Law, University of Illinois, reacting to the law suit and the reported exit of Rajapakse commented, “The law suit scared him [Rajapaksa] out of the country (USA) just like we pressured General Yaron out of here. A victory already no matter what the ruling.”
Spokesperson for US-based activist group, Tamils Against Genocide (TAG), which initiated the legal action said, “this will be a precedent setting legal action where once we go past the hurdle of “serving” a defendant who is an alien, the court has to tackle the head-of-state immunity in the post-Samantar legal landscape. The arguments that lead ICC’s ruling on Sudan’s Al Bashir that he is guilty of genocide will also be relevant in this case. TAG will pursue all legal means available to go after alleged war-criminals from Sri Lanka in the US courts and in other international judicial venues. The use of Wikileaks cables as admissible evidence will also be tested,” the spokesperson said.