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As Rajapaksa loses immunity, Canadians call for sanctions and prosecutions

My Neighbor the Suspected War Criminal' – When Gotabaya Rajapaksa got  served | Tamil Guardian

Canadian lawmaker Gary Anandasangaree called on his government to impose sanctions on former Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday, days after they lost immunity from prosecution.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka last week and is currently in Singapore, from where he resigned from his post as president. As he stepped down, he lost any official immunity, part of the reason why commentators say he fled as he feared prosecution.

At a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, Anandasangaree said “today more than ever, there's an imperative to ensure that leaders who commit atrocities be held to account”.

“The successive failures of the international community to consistently apply and abide by the international rules-based order has resulted in international impunity and allowed those like the Rajapaksa brothers to roam freely,” he continued.

“I am therefore asking our government to impose sanctions on both Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa for their roles in atrocities committed in 2008 and 2009.”

Photograph: A scene of devastation in Mullivaikkal pictured days after the Sri Lankan military had overrun the area in May 2009.

The brothers led a military offensive that killed tens of thousands of Tamils at the time, and is increasingly being recognised as a genocide, including by Canada’s parliament.

Anandasangaree also revealed that he wrote to Singapore’s foreign minister expressing his disappointment at allowing Gotabaya Rajapaksa to enter the country and calling on authorities there to prosecute him under the principles of universal jurisdiction

“I reiterate the numerous calls of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights asking member states to exercise universal jurisdiction and prosecute those who committed atrocity crimes in Sri Lanka within their local jurisdiction,” Anandasangaree added.

His call to Singapore comes as local Tamils too voiced their opposition to Rajapaksa’s presence in the country.

“Under the orders of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and these other military and political leaders, hospitals were repeatedly and intentionally shelled by the Sri Lankan armed forces, artillery was used in an indiscriminate and disproportionate fashion against civilians in so-called No Fire Zones, and LTTE combatants as well as Tamil civilians and children were ordered to be executed in contravention of the laws of war,” said Archana Ravichandradeva, Executive Director at People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL).

Ravichandradeva continued that the appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as Sri Lanka’s latest president “will continue to fail to deliver accountability domestically for the Rajapaksa's genocidal campaign”.

Responding to a question from the Tamil Guardian, Anandasangaree said it “is no secret that the Rajapaksa family assisted with Ranil Wickremesinghe’s ascension to power.”

“For that reason it is vital that the international community including Canada ensure accountability and justice for Tamils,” Ravichandradeva added.

“Now that he's no longer protected by immunity he, as well as other alleged perpetrators of Sri Lanka's mass atrocities, must face justice and accountability. Sanctions are one important tool in the accountability toolbox and we call on the Canadian government to sanction former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and other key military and political leaders.”

“Wherever these perpetrators of the world's worst crimes end up countries should exercise universal jurisdiction to hold them to account in their national courts. We also urge Canada to pursue action against Sri Lanka at the International Court of Justice and to request the International Criminal Court to explore opportunities to investigate and prosecute Sri Lanka's mass atrocities against Tamils.”

Venoth Navajeevanantha, president of the Centre Communautaire Tamoul du Québec, reiterated her remarks, stating it was “important let Canada continue to be a safe haven for refugees and provide them opportunities to heal and thrive, and send a strong message to the Rajapaksa war criminals that they will be held to account.”

“It's clear that the current crisis has deep systemic roots and it'll be vital for key stakeholders to address the underlining root causes by pressing for reform and strengthening the rule of law,” said Farida Deif, Canada director at Human Rights Watch.

“Ottawa should also press Sri Lankan authorities to investigate and prosecute official corruption and freeze any assets in Canada if they are suspected to have been obtained from corruption,” Deif continued.

“The Canadian government should ensure that the warning signs are heeded by taking concrete action now.”

See the full press conference below. See our live Twitter coverage of it here.

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