Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe claimed to have saved former president Mahinda Rajapaksa from going to the electric chair and averted an international probe into violations of international humanitarian law.
Speaking at a ceremony organized by the National Movement for Peace in Colombo on Friday, Mr Wickremesinghe said:
"I saved Mahinda Rajapaksa from the electric chair as well as avoiding an international inquiry.”
"The present leadership was able to rescue the country by removing Sri Lanka from the agenda,” he added. “It was the former President who promised UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon and USA to allow an international probe into alleged war crimes".
Mr Wickremesinghe also said his government had managed to change the view that Sri Lankan security forces had committed human rights violations.
"We have changed this and have been able to tell that the LTTE was responsible for human rights violation,” he told the audience. “We did not betray our Armed Forces.”
His comments come after a UN Human Rights Council resolution was adopted on Thursday, calling for a "credible justice process" with "independent judicial and prosecutorial institutions led by individuals known for integrity and impartiality" and "Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, and authorized prosecutors and investigators".
However, since the resolution was tabled the prime minister has repeatedly rejected the notion of an international mechanism and reiterated foreign judges must work under 'Sri Lanka's law and hierarchies'. Sri Lanka’s progress on implementing the resolution will be reviewed at the Human Rights Council next year.
This isn’t the first time Mr Wickremesinghe has claimed to have saved the former president from capital punishment for directing violations of international humanitarian law, having made the statement in an interview earlier this year.
“I have saved Mahinda Rajapaksa from the electric chair and ICC (International Criminal Court) since we have not signed Rome Statute,” said Mr Wickremesinghe in July. “He should always be grateful to me for that. No one can take our soldiers to ICC.”
The notion of being sentenced to death by electric chair for war crimes committed during the armed conflict, has been raised by Sri Lanka’s other political and military leaders repeatedly over the past year.
Sri Lanka’s former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had said that if he was to move to the USA, he would be prosecuted and sentenced to death by electric chair, whilst the recently promoted army general, Sarath Fonseka, said "if there are war crimes allegations and somebody goes to the electric chair, it will be me because I commanded, I planned, I monitored, I directed, I supervised the battlefield activities and I gave orders."
Last year, Mahinda Rajapaksa also told a political rally that a “smear campaign” had been started against him, stating, “those who cannot tolerate the country's growth after the eradication of terrorism are trying to take me to the electric chair".
See our earlier posts:
Sri Lankan prime minister rejects foreign judges (28 Sep 2015)
Mangala hails resolution as a victory for Sri Lanka (26 Sep 2015)