19 January, 2020

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Torture Victims Plan To Refile Case Against Gota When He Leaves Office

Eleven Sri Lankans who sued Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the United States for damages for torture have made the strategic decision to withdraw their case while Rajapaksa is President to prevent him from asserting immunity from prosecution. This move protects the victims’ right to refile their case after he leaves office.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa

“Gotabaya won’t be President for life and though he may slip through the net now, one day he and those who aided and abetted him, will be held accountable,” said the Executive Director of the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP), Yasmin Sooka. “The delay means that victims will have to wait even longer for justice. Victims have said that they feel strengthened by the fact that justice will be possible when Gotabaya’s term of office is up one day.”

The ITJP in partnership with the international law firm Hausfeld LLP prepared the civil damages case in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in April 2019 initially on behalf of a Tamil torture survivor Roy Samathanam. The complaint was then expanded on 26 June 2019 to add ten more plaintiffs – eight Tamils, two Sinhalese – who were deliberately kept anonymous to secure their safety. The case was filed under the Torture Victim Protection Act, which gives torture victims legal redress in US courts. At the time Rajapaksa was a dual US-Sri Lankan citizen and on US soil when notice was served against him in the parking lot of Trader Joes’ in Glendale, California on 7 April 2019.

“Our clients presented damning evidence that Mr. Rajapaksa was responsible for brutal abuses and he will eventually answer for these crimes under international law,” said human rights lawyer Scott Gilmore at Hausfeld LLP. “Recognizing that Mr. Rajapaksa is now President doesn’t preclude his victims from holding him accountable in the future.”

In the court documents, victims described horrific violations they suffered in police stations and army camps under the control of Rajapaksa. Men and women were branded with hot metal rods, whipped with cables, asphyxiated by plastic bags soaked in petrol put over their heads, and six of them were repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted. One Tamil plaintiff described being sexually enslaved for three years after the end of the civil war in 2009. She and other young Tamil women were kept in an army camp where at night, off-duty soldiers would select which women to take out and rape. They were given birth control to prevent them from becoming pregnant.

The complaint identified various responsible government agencies under the control of Rajapaksa at the time, including military intelligence, the Criminal Investigation Department, the Terrorism Investigation Division, and the Special Intelligence Service. Plaintiffs also named security officials they alleged were directly involved in their torture, some of whom allegedly received instructions directly from Rajapaksa. Several alleged perpetrators of torture were also named in court documents and are still serving in the police and army .

“If there are now reprisals against those connected to this case and their families, it will be crystal clear who is responsible,” warned Sooka, “the international community will be watching”. Shortly after the case was filed in April, lawyers for Samathanam had to file a cease-and-desist notice in court because individuals purporting to represent Rajapaksa directly contacted the victim and threatened him .

“All Sri Lankans owe an enormous debt to the plaintiffs in this case – Roy Samathanam and the ten anonymous men and women – for their tremendous courage in coming forward,” said Michael Hausfeld, Chairman of Hausfeld LLP. “We have the utmost respect for them and hope to be able to achieve justice for them one day in the future”. (ITJP)

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Latest comments

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    We believe Ahimsa case is still on appeal and not withdrawn. Withdrawing may end up as accepting the earlier verdict of the court, saying it has no jurisdiction to arrest King. The possibility of Swiss Embassy kidnapping is so far indicated that case cannot go through the Sinhala Only Jury Court. If the victim gets a chance she needs to apply to Germany or England or France or European Court for justice. Because of the UN offices in Swiss that courts may not bring even a travel ban on the criminals. We don’t know her ID. It is similar to 10 in this case, who are avoiding to release their ID – the reason is they are worried of their and their family’s safety; the cruel torture they received on the hand of Rapist Army and Rapist Police, force them to be reticent to present them in public. This is the hidden dimension of the victims’ disability caused by the Lankawe Rapist Army & Police. This condition of loss of hope in the world cannot be restored by court, compensated by money, even cannot be properly consulted by psychologists.

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    Roy Samathanam and the ten anonymous men and women have to wait for twenty or more years before they can bring action to the courts. As we all know gota will change the constitution to life presidency within a year.

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    what about the future torture victims?Have they also got to wait in the queue behind the others?

    ps.this might end up like pol pot victims getting a verdict after pol pot died of old age.

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    In future Lankan Security Forces should never arrest terrorists such buggers must be eliminated on the spot there is no use in arresting them. if taken in for questioning must be eliminated after questioning such arrests must be discreet with no evidence of arresting to avoid this type of bogus charges. If I am given the job as defense Secy. this would be my order to security forces. our chaps were fools to let these bastards go after questioning hence facing these bogus charges for entry into greener pastures I would ask Human rights Wallahs , vultures go to hell . this Sooka woman lives on selling such bogus stuff and munching meatless bones thrown at her by her western pay masters

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