Sri Lankans Accuse Him of Wartime Atrocities. California May Decide


Sri Lanka’s former defense chief, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, oversaw the final stages of a quarter-century-long conflict with Tamil separatists that ended in 2009. So far, he has avoided prosecution at home and abroad over allegations of crimes against humanity. However, in early April, Rajapaksa, now an American citizen, was personally served in California with civil court complaints that accused him of the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge, an investigative journalist, and the torture of Roy Samathanam, an ethnic Tamil who had Canadian citizenship.

Although there are concerns that Rajapaksa may use the California litigation to drum up nationalist support if he runs for president, rights advocates say that the cases are important because they focus international scrutiny on the Rajapaksa family’s wartime actions.

However the cases turn out, it remains to be seen how far they can go toward healing the wounds of the civil war. Some worry that bringing the Rajapaksa family to justice could be seen as an end in itself, thereby minimizing the racism and discrimination against minorities they say was built into Sri Lanka’s constitution and institutions.

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New York Times