Rights activists demand arrest of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Singapore for alleged war crimes

The complaint, which demands Rajapaksa’s arrest, cited the universal jurisdiction of alleged abuses (breaches of the Geneva Conventions) during the war

Jul 25, 2022
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Former Sri Lanka president Gotabaya Rajapaksa

A group of human rights activists associated with the Internation Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) has demanded the arrest of former Sri Lanka president Gotabaya Rajapaksa for his alleged role in rights violations committed during the last leg of the country's three-decade-long civil war. 

Rajapaksa resigned as president earlier this month after he fled to Singapore via the Maldives amid widespread protests as the country saw an economic meltdown under his reign. The country of 22 million people has been facing an acute shortage of fuel, food and other essentials. 

South Africa based-ITJP has now filed a complaint with Singapore's attorney-general seeking his arrest for the widespread human rights violation committed during Sri Lanka's civil war. 

Rajapaksa, who had served as the country's defence secretary between 2005 to 2009, oversaw the military operations against the separatist Tamil militant group LTTE.

Over 40,000 civilians, including children and women, were estimated to have been killed in the months leading to the end of the country's ethnic civil war in 2009. His elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was serving as the country's president during that period. 

The complaint, which demands Rajapaksa’s arrest, cited the universal jurisdiction of alleged abuses (breaches of the Geneva Conventions) during the war. 

"The criminal complaint that has been filed is (based on) verifiable information on both the crimes that have been committed, but also on evidence really linking the individual in question, who is now in Singapore," Alexandra Lily Kather, one of the lawyers that drafted the complaint, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

She said, "Singapore really has a unique opportunity with this complaint, with its own law and with its own policy, to speak truth to power."

Importantly, hours after Rajapaksa's arrival on 18 July, authorities in Singapore warned people of the consequences if they organized any protests without permission in violation of local laws. Singapore has a substantial expatriate Sri Lankan community, especially Tamils. 

While confirming his arrival there, the Singaporean government clarified that Rajapaksa had not sought asylum, and he entered the country on a private visit. 

Back home in Sri Lanka, several rights activists and protestors also demanded his arrest.  

(SAM)

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