1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
PoliticsSri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Rights group seeks ex-President's arrest

July 24, 2022

The group filed a criminal complaint against Gotabaya Rajapaksa for alleged crimes committed during Sri Lanka’s civil war. He fled to Singapore in mid-July.

Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa speaks during the opening ceremony of the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, Monday Nov. 1, 2021.
Rajapaksa stepped down as Sri Lanka's president on July 14Image: Andy Buchanan/AP Photo/picture alliance

A South Africa-based rights group said Sunday that it is seeking the arrest of ex-Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa for crimes committed during the country's 2009 civil war.  The group said it filed a criminal complaint with Singapore's Attorney General. 

"This complaint recognizes that it's not just about corruption and economic mismanagement but also accountability for mass atrocity crimes,'' said Yasmin Sooka, the executive director of the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP), the evidence gathering organization who filed the complaint. 

People throng President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s official residence for the second day after it was stormed in Colombo
Protestors in Sri Lanka focused their grievances on Rajapaksa’s family Image: Rafiq MaqboolAP Photo/picture alliance

Rajapaksa fled the country in mid-July during Sri Lanka's economic crisis. He first went to Maldives after protesters stormed his residence. The former president then fled to Singapore where he submitted a official resignation from his position. 

The complaint argues that Rajapaksa committed acts that breached the Geneva Conventions during his tenure as Sri Lanka's secretary of defense amid the country's 2009 civil war

Authorities in Singapore received the complaint. 

Complaint against Rajapaksa 'based on verifiable information,' lawyer argues 

The complaint is based "on verifiable information on both the crimes that have been committed, but also on evidence really linking the individual in question," Alexandra Lily Kather, a lawyer that drafted the complaint, told Reuters news agency. 

"These are crimes subject to domestic prosecution in Singapore under universal Jurisdiction,'' the ITJP added.

Singapore's foreign ministry said that Rajapaksa entered the country on a non-official visit and had not been granted asylum.

The Attorney-General's Chambers in Sri Lanka confirmed that they had received a letter from ITJP on July 23 but was "not able to comment further on this matter," a spokesperson told Reuters.

According to the ITJP director, the current crisis in Sri Lanka is linked to "structural impunity for serious international crimes going back three decades or more.''

Missing Sri Lankans

What happened during Sri Lanka's civil war? 

Tamil Tiger rebels fought to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils during Sri Lanka's 2009 Civil War. An estimated 100,000 people were killed according to numbers released by the UN. At least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the months near the end of the fighting.

Rajapaksa has previously denied allegations that he was responsible for war crimes.

Recent economic chaos in Sri Lanka has left the nation's population with a shortage of food, medicine, and fuel. Protesters took to the streets in mid-July demanding that their leaders take responsibility for the country's economic decline. 

asw/wd (AP, Reuters)