A lawsuit was filed against Sri Lankan General, Shavendra Silva, accused of war crimes whilst commander of the 58th division of the Sri Lankan Army in 2009.
Silva is currently Sri Lanka’s Acting Permanent Representative to the UN.
The lawsuit was filed by the American University Washington College of Law’s UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic in the Southern District of New York.
Ali Beydoun, lead counsel on this case said,
“These egregious violations of international and domestic law have gone unanswered for over two years now, as survivors continue to suffer in suffocating silence on the island.
Finally, after years of waiting for someone to answer for the loss of loved ones, the voices of Tamil victims and survivors have been granted their day in court.
Today, U.S. courts provide a forum for justice and accountability, where there would otherwise be continued impunity for Sri Lanka’s crimes against Tamils.”
Beydoun is also the director at American University Washington College of Law’s UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic, and a Senior Partner at SPEAK Human Rights Initiative.
In a statement released Friday, the counsel argued,
"This lawsuit seeks damages for violations of international, Sri Lankan and domestic law under the Alien Torture Claims Act (ATCA) and Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA).
These statutes grant jurisdiction to U.S. courts over human rights violations committed abroad, and serve to ensure that the U.S. does not become a safe haven for war criminals.
The day will not be getting any easier for Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as massive protests greet his arrival in New York for the 66th U.N. General Assembly. This day marks a uniquely perfect storm for justice, as demands for accountability begin to echo throughout New York and the world.
Shavendra Silva is accused of perpetrating and orchestrating war crimes during the final stages for the conflict.
A former Sri Lankan soldier attested that Silva gathered his officers in the closing days of the war and ordered them to take no prisoners when capturing the remainder of the enclave in which thousands of Tamils civilians and fighters were surrounded.
The solider, who was a member of the 58th Division confirmed,
"We received orders from the top to kill some of those who surrendered. All regiments received the orders unofficially - from the top."
According to the soldier, Silva stated, “This is a very decisive day for us because last night I got a call from the defence secretary. He told me that we only have a small chunk of land left to capture. Do whatever it takes- finish it off the way it has to be done."
See here for video clip of soldier’s testimony.
The lawsuit comes amid a criminal complaint filed against Sri Lanka's Deputy Ambassador to Germany and Switzerland, Jagath Dias, by TRIAL (Swiss Association Against Impunity) and the Society for Threatened Peoples (SPM), and the ambassador's sudden recall from duty. Following the complaint, Swiss Federal Attorney General confirmed Dias would face a criminal investigation if he were to return to the Swiss territory.
Dias was the former leader of the 57th Division.
See our earlier post: "'Dias faces arrest if he returns'" (Sep 2011)