Ten more people have filed lawsuits in the United States against Gotabaya Rajapaksa alleging that forces under his command tortured them in Sri Lanka between 2008 and 2015 when he was Secretary to the Ministry of Defense, the Associated Press reported today.
The story datelined Washington says the alleged victims were “repeatedly tortured and raped, in some cases branding them with hot metal rods and lashing them with electrical cables.”
The new cases were filed on Wednesday the report said.
The new claims add “harrowing details to allegations of abuse that surfaced in an April lawsuit in California. The case details physical, sexual and psychological attacks during and after a decades-long civil war between the government and the island country’s ethnic minority. A U.N. experts’ panel report has said about 45,000 Tamil civilians may have been killed in the final months of the fighting alone,” AP reports
“This is not a case of isolated incidents. These are not random occurrences,” Scott Gilmore, an attorney for the victims, is quoted by AP as saying. “This was an institutional practice amounting to crimes against humanity and the head of that institution was the defense secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.”
The case against Rajapaksa — an American citizen who the lawsuit says immigrated to the United States around 1990 and lived and worked for a time in California — was brought in federal court in Los Angeles under a statute that permits U.S. lawsuits for acts of torture and murders committed in foreign countries.
It aims to use the U.S. court system to hold Rajapaksa accountable for acts by the police and military he oversaw just as he has resurfaced politically and postured himself as a presidential contender.
AP says his American lawyer, John Ulin, did not immediately return a call and email seeking comment. He has indicated that he plans to seek the dismissal of the case on grounds including foreign official immunity and statute of limitation, according to a court document filed earlier this week.
The original complaint was filed in April on behalf of Roy Samathanam, a Canadian Tamil who was arrested while visiting Sri Lanka. Guards beat him with pipes and clubs in prison, yelled at him to confess that he was a member of the Tamil Tigers and threatened to murder his wife, according to the lawsuit.
The amended lawsuit Wednesday contains allegations from an additional 10 plaintiffs, eight Tamil and two Sinhalese.
“He knew or should have known that torture and sexual violence were being committed on a mass scale by security forces under his control,” the lawsuit says. “Instead of preventing these abuses, he encouraged or tolerated them. Instead of prosecuting the perpetrators, he obstructed justice and threatened witnesses with death.”
It also identifies name several high-ranking Sri Lankan officials who it says were involved in the abuse, including a top investigative police officer and a counterterrorism investigative chief who is alleged to have received directions from Rajapaksa directly.