Yasmin Sooka initiates war crimes hunt for Jagath Jayasuriya Jagath not fleeing war crimes charges-– Fgn Ministry

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By 2017-08-30

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan

Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Brazil Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya is on his way back to Sri Lanka, coinciding with war crimes charges filed against him in Brazil and Colombia.

The cases were filed by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) headed by international human rights lawyer Yasmin Sooka alleging that Jayasuriya had committed war crimes during the last phase of Sri Lanka's war that militarily defeated the LTTE in 2009.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Mahishini Colonne said that the Ambassador has 'not fled' Brazil but is returning to Sri Lanka since he...... has completed his tenure as Ambassador to Brazil.

Colonne said he will be in Colombo today (30) as he completes his assignment as Ambassador to Brazil this month. He has not "fled Brazil" she added. "His departure from Brazil was already planned as he completes his tenure there this month," she added.

It is unlikely that any real action would be taken against the General as he has diplomatic immunity as an Ambassador. Under the Rome Statute which set up the International Criminal Court, member countries can arrest and charge individuals who have allegedly committed war crimes in other countries. Gen. Jayasuriya was appointed as Sri Lankan Ambassador to Brazil in 2015, concurrently accredited to Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Suriname. However, the ITJP claimed that the Ambassador had fled Brazil Monday 28, before he was charged, and on the same night had landed at Dubai Airport at about 10p.m. to board his flight to Sri Lanka. The ITJP lawsuit was filed in the Brazilian capital Brasilia and the Colombian capital Bogotá on Monday by Sooka along with a number of Latin American organizations coordinated by Spanish prosecutor, Carlos Castresanam Fernández. He was one of the Spanish lawyers who in 1996 initiated the cases against General Videla and General Pinochet in Spain's National Court, an ITJP press release said. The ITJP also quoted Spanish prosecutor Fernández as saying, "I don't care if Jayasuriya has fled Brazil; the case is just starting."

The ITJP alleged that General Jayasuriya bears individual criminal responsibility as the commander of units that committed repeated attacks on hospitals, acts of torture and sexual violence, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

"It is an outrage that a man like this, named in UN reports, should be sent as a diplomat abroad given what he has done. The ITJP and its Latin American partners would have liked to see the General stand trial but instead we understand he's suddenly fled the region and returned to Sri Lanka," Sooka added. She said that if he really believed in his innocence, General Jayasuriya would have "remained in his post and faced the judicial process."

"I am shocked to see there is even more evidence of grave crimes in this lawsuit than in the cases we started against General Pinochet or Videla," said Castresana, "Nobody believed at first that the Pinochet case would go anywhere or that the Argentinian Courts would ever be able to make the Military Juntas accountable; nobody believed the Guatemalan security forces could be held accountable, but with a handful of good, committed people I want to tell you that it is possible to deliver justice for the victims. I don't care that he fled Brazil; the case is just starting. He has made things easier for us because by fleeing he will not enjoy immunity anymore."

The press release said Jayasuriya was the Vanni Security Force Commander from 2007-9, by his own admission overseeing the entire conduct of the final phase of the war during which Tamil civilians were indiscriminately shelled and bombed and hospitals targeted. The ITJP alleges Jayasuriya oversaw the offensive from one of Sri Lanka's most notorious torture sites, known as the 'Joseph Camp'.

The ITJP has collected testimony from 14 survivors of torture and/or sexual violence in this camp that occurred while General Jayasuriya was in command of the site. The lawsuit also alleges General Jayasuriya, who went on to become Sri Lanka's Army Commander, had command responsibility for acts of extrajudicial execution and the enforced disappearances of hundreds of those who voluntarily surrendered to the Army at the end of the conflict. Eight years later, the families of the disappeared continue to mount daily protests on the roadsides of northern and eastern Sri Lanka, demanding information about the fate of their sons and daughters, holding up their photographs.

"On 30th August we mark the International Day of the Disappeared and as a country that has suffered disappearances, we stand in solidarity with the victims and their families in Sri Lanka," said Juan Carlos Ospina of the Colombian Commission of Jurists.

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