A rights group gathering evidence on Sri Lanka’s alleged rights abuses says it has filed a criminal complaint with Singapore’s attorney general, seeking to arrest a former Sri Lankan president for his role in war crimes that allegedly committed during the island nation’s civil war that ended more than a decade ago.
Lawyers for the International Truth and Justice Project, an evidence-gathering organization administered by a South Africa-based non-profit foundation, have filed suit, demanding the immediate arrest of former Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for his role as Defense Secretary during Sri Lanka. Lanka’s civil war, which ended in 2009, the group said in a statement on Sunday.
Rajapaksa is believed to be living in Singapore after fleeing Sri Lanka due to months of massive protests against him over the country’s economic collapse. Rajapaksa fled the country in mid-July after angry Sri Lankan protesters stormed his residence. He first traveled to the neighboring Maldives, then flew to Singapore.
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The group said that “the 63-page complaint alleges that Rajapaksa committed serious breaches of the Geneva Conventions during the civil war in 2009 when he was Secretary of Defense and that these are domestically prosecutable crimes in Singapore falling under of universal jurisdiction”.
Rajapaksa was one of the most powerful officials _ holding the title of Secretary of the Ministry of Defense _ in the administration of his older brother, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who ruled Sri Lanka from 2005 to 2015.
He became president of Sri Lanka in 2019 but had to flee in mid-July due to public protests over his failure to resolve an unprecedented economic crisis that has dealt a severe blow to the livelihoods of many Sri Lankans.
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“The economic crisis has seen the government crumble, but the crisis in Sri Lanka is really about structural impunity for serious international crimes that date back three decades or more,” said the ITJP’s executive director, Yasmin Sooka.
“This complaint recognizes that it is not just about corruption and economic mismanagement, but also about responsibility for mass atrocities,” she added.
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Sri Lanka’s civil war has killed 100,000 people, according to conservative United Nations estimates. The actual number is believed to be much higher. A report by a UN panel of experts said at least 40,000 ethnic minority Tamil civilians have been killed in the last few months of fighting alone.
The Tamil Tiger rebels fought to create an independent state for the Tamil ethnic minority.
After Rajapaksa fled the country, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe became interim president and last week lawmakers in Sri Lanka’s 225-member parliament elected Wickremesinghe to serve as president for the remaining term of office. of Rajapaksa. Wickremesinghe was sworn in last week.
Sri Lankans have taken to the streets for months to demand that their top leaders step down to take responsibility for the economic chaos that has left the country’s 22 million people struggling with shortages of essentials including medicines, fuel and food. Protesters focused on Rajapaksa’s family,
Crisis in Sri Lanka: the president flees the Maldives, the demonstrators leave their offices
Wickremesinghe also drew their ire as a perceived substitute for Rajapaksa. Protesters accuse Rajapaksa and his powerful family of siphoning off money from government coffers and hastening the country’s collapse by mismanaging the economy. The family denied allegations of corruption, but the former president admitted that some of his policies had contributed to the Sri Lankan crisis.
Political unrest threatened efforts to seek bailout from the International Monetary Fund. Yet earlier this week, Wickremesinghe said bailout talks were coming to an end.
IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva told Japanese financial magazine Nikkei Asia this week that the IMF hopes for a deal “as soon as possible”.
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