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Torture victims put cases on hold to avoid Gotabaya impunity 

A group of Tamil and Sri Lankan torture victims who launched a court case against current Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for torture damages have decided to withdraw their cases, in order to prevent him from asserting immunity.

This move has been made to ensure that Rajapaksa is held accountable and allows the victims to retain their right to resubmit their cases once he leaves office. 

Rajapaksa, who was a dual US-Sri Lankan citizen at the time, was served a notice with a case file under the Torture Victim Protection Act in Glendale, California on 7 April 2019. This civil damages case was prepared by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) in partnership with the international law firm Hausfeld LLP initially on behalf of a Tamil torture survivor Roy Samathanam. 

“Gotabaya won’t be President for life and though he may slip through the net now, one day he and those who aided and abetted him, will be held accountable. The international community will be watching”.” said ITJP Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka. 

“The delay means that victims will have to wait even longer for justice,” she added.

“Victims have said that they feel strengthened by the fact that justice will be possible when Gotabaya’s term of office is up one day.”

The eleven plaintiffs in this case represent a small fraction of the Tamil civilians, LTTE prisoners-of-war, and critics of the Rajapaksa regime who were abducted, tortured, and raped by security forces under Gotabaya’s command. The victims described brutal sexual and violent torture violations by police and soldiers under Gotabaya’s command. 

Most of the plaintiffs have had their names deliberately anonymised to secure safety, with lawyers also filing for cease-and-desist notices to protect them from threats. 

Human rights lawyer Scott Gilmore at Hausfeld LLP said, “Our clients presented damning evidence that Mr. Rajapaksa was responsible for brutal abuses and he will eventually answer for these crimes under international law. Recognizing that Mr. Rajapaksa is now President doesn’t preclude his victims from holding him accountable in the future.”  

Michael Hausfeld, Chairman of Hausfeld LLP, vowed to deliver justice for the victims despite the setback, stating “All Sri Lankans owe an enormous debt to the plaintiffs in this case – for their tremendous courage in coming forward”.

“We have the utmost respect for them and hope to be able to achieve justice for them one day in the future”.   

See the full press release here.

 

Roy Samathanam, one of the Tamil torture survivors, who filed the civil lawsuit described how his experience of torture at the hands of Sri Lankan security forces "never goes away". See his interview with the Tamil Guardian below.

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