Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa will ignore summons from a US court over a $US30 million damages suit against him. Photo: Reuters
A US COURT has summonsed the President of Sri Lanka over war crimes allegedly committed during the final days of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009.
But President Mahinda Rajapaksa (pictured) will ignore the summons over a $US30 million ($A28 million) damages suit against him, claiming sovereign immunity. He still plans to travel to the US this year for UN General Assembly sessions.
In May 2009, Sri Lanka’s 26-year-civil war between the government and separatist Tamil Tigers was ended by a ruthless final offensive by government troops. The UN estimates up to 40,000 civilians were killed.
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The civil case against President Rajapaksa, lodged in the District of Columbia district court, alleges that the President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Sri Lankan armed forces, is ultimately responsible for the torture and extra-judicial killing of civilians during the war.
The petitioners, relatives of three Tamil civilians killed by government troops, are seeking damages, alleging six counts of violating the US Torture Victims Protection Act.
Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Ministry said the court action was designed to embarrass the President and his government, and would not be responded to.
”There is an internationally accepted convention that heads of state enjoy sovereign immunity. Therefore, any move to stop him from visiting the United States would be futile,” an official told Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times.
Last month, The Age detailed allegations of war crimes made against dual Australian-Sri Lankan citizen Palitha Kohona.
Dr Kohona, who was foreign secretary during the war and is now Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the UN, is accused of engineering the surrender under white flags of key Tamil Tigers and civilians. The surrendering Tamils were then shot by government troops.
Dr Kohona had denied all allegations against him.
A petition made to try him before the International Criminal Court is being considered by the court.