The People’s Tribunal on Murdered Journalists in The Hague will indict the Government of Sri Lanka for its role in the assassination of slain Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge and its prolonged failure to bring his murderers to justice, adding to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa‘s mounting international problems.
The Tribunal, established in The Hague, Netherlands, where the International Criminal Court is also based, will be part of the Permanent People’s Tribunal in Rome. The Project, entitled A Safer World for the Truth, is a collaboration between Free Press Unlimited, a press freedom organisation based in The Neterhlands, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Sans Frontiers. The website announcing the establishment of the tribunal which will commence sittings on November 2, 2021, said the three press freedom watchdogs were joining forces to “to investigate. To document. To pursue justice. And create a safer world for the truth.”
When journalists are killed, in eight out of 10 cases, the killers go free, the organisations said.[See full press release here]
Lasantha Wickrematunge was killed on January 8, 2009 when Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the current president of Sri Lanka held office as Secretary to the Ministry of Defence. Evidence gathered after the fall of the Rajapaksa Government in 2015, revealed an elaborate plot to cover up Wickrematunge’s murder and how the renowned editor was likely assassinated by a military intelligence death squad commanded by the Defence Secretary.
“The People’s Tribunal on the Murder of Journalists, will indict the governments of Sri Lanka, Mexico and Syria for failing to deliver justice for the murders of Lasantha Wickrematunge, Miguel Ángel López Velasco, and Nabil Al-Sharbaji,” a press release about the Tribunal said. The tribunal will hear witness testimony and expert legal analysis and evidence regarding the three murders. The hearing into Wickrematunge’s murder is scheduled to be held in January 2022, in The Hague. The prosecution will be led by renowned international human rights lawyer Almudena Bernabeu, who will be supported by former Judge of the International Criminal Court, Sir Howard Morrison QC.
Tweeting about the Tribunal, Wickrematunge’s daughter Ahimsa said she was proud to support the effort to bring evidence about her father’s murder before the world. “No immunity here (in The Hague), so finally, my family gets something resembling a day in court,” the journalist’s daughter said. Wickrematunge’s family has been seeking justice for his murder for 12 long years.
Proud to support @SaferTruth Tribunal prosecute #LKA Govt in The Hague for its role in murdering Lasantha Wickrematunge. Proof of who had my father killed will be laid bare for the world to see. No immunity here, so finally, my family gets something resembling a day in court https://t.co/eXWPsLsGB1
— Ahimsa Wickrematunge (@awickrematunge) September 29, 2021
The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) in San Francisco which represented Ahimsa Wickrematunge in her efforts to sue Gotabaya Rajapaksa for the murder of her father, also tweeted that it was proud to support CPJ, Free Press Unlimited and RSF in their efforts to highlight impunity for attacks on journalists.
The @SaferTruth People's Tribunal will profile the #lka military's 2009 murder of #Lasantha Wickrematunge & rising attacks on the press in #SriLanka. @CJA_News is proud to support @freepressunltd @pressfreedom @RSF_en efforts to highlight #impunity for attacks on journalists. https://t.co/RsXnVKTwKi
— CJA (@CJA_News) September 28, 2021