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'Gotabaya may escape accountability by running for Sri Lankan president'

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Sri Lanka’s former defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa may evade accountability for war crimes if he wins next month’s presidential elections, warned Beth Van Schaack, stating that plaintiffs pursuing cases against him in the USA are “racing against time”.

Van Schaack, the former Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor of Human Rights at Stanford Law School and former Deputy to the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice at the US State Department, went on to state,

“Should Gotabaya prevail in the election next month, justice may again be delayed for those journalists and civilians who suffered grave human rights violations under the Rajapaksa regime”.

“As we have reported, there is significant evidence in the public record that Gota himself directed the bombing of civilian hospitals and the killing of civilians to pummel the LTTE into submission,” she writes. “In the notorious “white flag incident,” documented by a United Nations Panel of Experts convened by the U.N. Secretary-General, former Sri Lankan Army Commander Sarath Fonseka alleged that Gota (see here and here) ordered the summary execution of surrendering LTTE leaders and their families as they emerged from their hideout frantically waving a white flag.”

"Just Security’s co-editor in chief, Professor Ryan Goodman of NYU Law, argued in 2015 that members of the Rajapaksa regime should be criminally prosecuted for their involvement in these atrocities given the significant likelihood that the Rajapaksa brothers would again make a bid for power. Indeed, as a naturalized U.S. citizen, Gotabaya could have been prosecuted under the War Crimes Act of 1996 (see our prior coverage here), intended to prosecute war crimes committed by U.S. citizens committed anywhere in the world. Charges never materialized, however, and — as feared — Gota is now running for president.”

See the full text of her piece here.

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