Gotabaya Rajapaksa faces ten new charges of overseeing torture and sexual violence during his period as defence secretary.
The charges were filed by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on June 26 and document the horrific abuses the ten plaintiffs faced. This includes being branded with hot metals rods, whipped with cables, asphyxiated by plastic bags soaked in petrol, and six of them were repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted. The ten plaintiffs include three women; eight are Tamil and two Sinhalese. These documents are now available for the public domain.
The ITJP (International Truth and Justice Project) and Hausfeld, an international law firm have brought these cases forwards through a six-year-long investigation. They report that "the latest allegations contained details of abuses that occurred between 2008 and 2013 in army camps, including the notorious Joseph Camp in Vavuniya, police stations in the capital Colombo and Pulmoddai, and at Boossa detention site in Galle".
Scott Gilmore, an attorney for the victims, told The Associated Press;
"This is not a case of isolated incidents. These are not random occurrences [...] This was an institutional practice amounting to crimes against humanity and the head of that instiution was the defence secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa"
Gotabaya is a dual citizen and is facing charges under a federal court in Los Angeles under the Torture Victim Protection Act, which gives victims of torture legal redress in US courts. In a bid to avoid these charges he has since renounced his US citizenship.
Read more here: Gotabaya announces renunciation of US citizenship
Gotabaya's defence lawyer, John Ulin, did not respond to initial inquiries but has indicated that he plans to dismiss the case on the grounds of foreign official immunity and the statute of limitation. Gotabaya himself has said this on the matter:
"You talk about human rights, you talk about freedom of individuals, you talk about reconcilliation, but all these depend on national security [...] If you don't have national security what happens? Do you have freedom? Everything depends on national security."
The lawsuit states that Gotabaya "knew or should have known that torture and sexual violence was being committed on a mass scale" and "instead of preventing these abuses he encouraged or tolerated them. Instead of prosecuting the perpetrators, he obstructed justice and threatened witnesses with death".
Yasmin Sooka stated that since "perpetrators remain in key investigative positions in the police force shows why Sri Lankans have been unable to achieve justice [...] Bringing a case abroad is their only option".
The lawsuit further identifies several high-ranking Sri Lankan officials who were implicated in these abuses including the top investigative police officer, Nishanthe de Silva; who was alleged to have tortured a plaintiff twice in Colombo. Prasanna de Alwis, the former Officer in Charge of the Terrorism Investigation Division in Colombo, was also accused to have ordered and sometimes participated in torture. Both the top police officer and counterterrorism investigative chief were alleged to have received directions from Gotabaya directly.
The case was initially filed on April 5 on behalf of a Canadian Tamil torture survivor, Roy Samathanam and was followed by a cease-and-desist notice on April 29 after three individuals claiming to represent Gotabaya contacted and threatened Samathanam.
Read more here: 'It never goes away' says Tamil torture survivor suing Gotabaya
Read previous court documents here,
Read ITJP and Hausfeld Press statement here.
Read more here.