26 September, 2022


Ahimsa To Appeal Decision In U.S. Extrajudicial Killing Case Against Gotabaya Rajapaksa

The United States District Court for the Central District of California granted former Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s motion to dismiss Ahimsa Wickrematunge’s lawsuit against him for the assassination of her father, prominent Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge.


The Court held that it lacks the jurisdiction to consider Wickrematunge’s claims, because, in the Court’s view, Rajapaksa is entitled to common law foreign official immunity for the acts that are alleged—acts of torture, extrajudicial killing, and crimes against humanity. The Court found that these acts were committed in his official capacity as Sri Lanka’s Secretary of Defense.

The Court made no finding on the actual merits of the allegations against Rajapaksa, which include his alleged responsibility for the extrajudicial killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge and for the Sri Lankan government’s campaign of violence against journalists during Sri Lanka’s civil war.

The decision comes even though Lasantha’s assassination was neither authorized nor ratified by the Sri Lankan government, and Rajapaksa presented no evidence to suggest the contrary.

Plaintiff and her counsel will challenge the decision. “This is a disappointing setback in my family’s long fight for justice on behalf of my father, as well as for the movement to end impunity for the killing of journalists in Sri Lanka. My father was a civilian driving to his office when he was brutally assassinated on the street. Killing a journalist because of their reporting should never be seen as an official state act and my lawyers and I will continue to fight to ensure perpetrators of these abuses do not escape justice,” says Ahimsa Wickrematunge.

“An end to impunity is precisely what the Torture Victim Protection Act was designed to provide in cases like this. There is no immunity when government officials act outside their authority to torture and murder journalists. Defendant Rajapaksa, a U.S. citizen, can and must be held accountable in U.S. courts,” says Natalie L. Reid of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, counsel to Ahimsa.


On April 4, 2019, CJA filed a complaint for torture, extrajudicial killing and crimes against humanity under the Torture Victim Protection Act and Alien Tort Statute against Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former Sri Lankan Secretary of Defense. At the time of filing, Rajapaksa was a U.S. citizen, and CJA served him while he was visiting the United States. After CJA filed the case, Rajapaksa announced his candidacy in the Sri Lankan Presidential election.

Rajapaska sought to dismiss the case on a number of defenses, including on grounds that he was afforded immunity for actions taken during his tenure as Secretary of Defense. Rajapaksa also sought to stay the case until after Sri Lanka’s Presidential election, in which he is running as a candidate, based on the assumption that he would be entitled to head of state immunity should he be elected.

CJA and Debevoise opposed both motions, arguing that the caseshould not be dismissed because the Sri Lankan government has never requested immunity on Rajapaksa’s behalf, and that neither Lasantha’s assassination nor the targeted campaign against journalists are official acts. Moreover, justice is unavailable in Sri Lanka: statements from international experts Juan Mendez and Steven Ratner, and Sri Lankan constitutional scholar Suri Ratnapala show that human rights cases against the Rajapaksa administration, like this one, cannot proceed in Sri Lanka without facing judicial interference, delay, and danger to litigants and witnesses. Rajapaksa, a U.S. citizen at the time of the events in question and when the case was filed, should be held accountable under U.S. laws prohibiting torture and extrajudicial killing. The plaintiff’s opposition briefs and supporting expert declarations can be found here. (Center for Justice and Accountability)

Full judgement can be read here

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Latest comments

  • 6

    Another politically motivated case bites the dust………

    • 3

      File this in the UK and you get justice,

  • 5

    BTW folks, it is reported some Opposition Politicians had the gall and brazenness to make a complaint that Government controlled media (currently coming under the purview of the President) was bias! What hypocrites they are! Wonder if they have forgotten how they conducted themselves no sooner they assumed power under the 52 day fiasco? Have they also forgotten how State run media was manipulated and controlled during the rule of MR the sadist? (all in this Rajapaksa family are cut of the same cloth) That family is a curse and a cancer to the SL society. What have we SL citizens done to deserve that curse?

    The State run media today is no comparison to what it was under MR the dictator.

  • 3

    Now blame US justice system. In any event things will be sorted out soon. Gota and Sajith will have to fight it out at the election.

    Why are we so paranoid about court cases in SL or US?

  • 2

    Lester why don’t you take a hike you arse…e. It is because of M F’ s like you that this Country is in one shit hole

  • 2

    Excellent writing Gamini. I only hope dumb fools like Lester can put on his testicles sorry spectacles and read it.
    Many thanks.

  • 2

    I had always doubted the legality of the case Ahimsa filed because of jurisdictional issues

  • 4

    This proves only one thing., Sri lankan Politicians, what ever party of the capitalists can commit a crime anywhere in the world. You do not have to kill a person in SL, let him go to the US and you can bump him off.

  • 2


    Journalists have that challenge & judiciary may or may not be able to give justice AS YOU EXPECT.

    The reason may be that justice given to you can’t be an injustice to another/others.

    Journalists have to be tricky & that’s their main responsibility.

    Death can’t be stopped, whether it’s natural or criminal.

    Time has long passed so forget & be sure that your kids won’t be journalists one day because children tread on dads’ steps..

  • 4

    Regarding the innocence of Gota so much emphasised by his followers here, they just do not realise what money and good lawyers can do to protect criminals. Add to that the govt if a country needs a person then courts are requested to fall in line. Gota is US as he even signed the SOFA in 2010. See what happened to Assange when Sweden & UK pushed him under US law.

  • 1

    In President Premadasa s timre “UNPers were armed againts the JVP. Private vendatas including murder of SLFP was commited. In MRs time raw trainees were placed in the battle field. They were faced with trauma. It could well be that such peple commited crimes that they thought their bosses wanted. Just because people say somrething at the heat of the moment iit does not mean they are guilty. National intelligence had to deliver the goods. GR also had to get the right information. We remembrer Batalanda. The muslim extreist mass killing had to bre countered by the secret service. Lack of such informa tion led to mass killing s.and neutralised situation occuredr by using such methods. This Government too would have used these methods.

  • 0

    Having Political differences with that USA hegemony of domination of Globe village by monopolies is of a different matter; kept of differences on beside that.
    Being that USA that internal rule of law which that working on base of actual fact before on court of law. Many number of criminal justice system has mostly having positive factors that beyond politicization of USA by rule of Law.
    I an admirer mode of governance of USA that law authority having base on real facts that before court of Law on verdicts by judges .
    Hence Gotabya vs Lasantha case has been given most an appropriate decision by Judges of US high Court on basis of Fair and Correct verdict.
    There is no politicization an engaged of that by US court of law that regarding case of Gota vs Lasanth in USA. .
    Which is that unlike case of is different norms apply Sri Lankan judiciary is concern ; ours judiciary that an overall influences by not only UNP why not that TNA, JVP, MC, JHU of Champike and individual lumpen of Rajith and his son are working towards politicization Judiciary by since 15/1/8 ladership of that UNP regime.
    An institutionalization of that politicization judiciary which under that UNP -regime has come to very bad end which led by feudal clan of Wicakmasinghe – Ranil since 2015 Jan 8th.!@ by SSS.
    Eventually that UNP regime back by TNA, JVP, Muslim Congress,Muslim MP s in House of Parliament and UP country Tamil chauvinist of extremist are that behind undermined rule of Law by unholy alliances politics of anarchist extremist.
    By and large that an infiltrated of anti -law establishment of anarchist+terrorist has undermined Court of Law and sovereignty of Law of Island. last 5 years 15/1/8.

    • 0

      Ranjith Gunawaradana:
      This is NOT an attempt at facetiousness, but would you please have someone translate what you have to say into comprehensible English and then publish it?
      It does sound interesting but one can’t make head or tail of it in its present form.
      Isn’t it also about time that CT’s editors examined material like this and made the necessary corrections prior to publication?

  • 0

    keep at it . blow through all the /diaspora money. eh heh

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