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Sri Lankan ambassador to Brazil accused of war crimes during civil war

Rights groups allege Jagath Jayasuriya oversaw military units that attacked hospitals and killed, disappeared and tortured thousands of people.

world Updated: Aug 30, 2017 08:44 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press
Rio de Janeiro
Jagath Jayasuriya,Sri Lankan ambassador to Brazil,LTTE
The Sri Lankan embassy in Brasilia on August 28, 2017.(AP)

Human rights groups in South America have alleged war crimes violations in lawsuits filed against a former Sri Lankan general, currently the ambassador to Brazil and five other countries in Latin America.

The suits against Jagath Jayasuriya are based on his role as a commander in the final phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009. The rights groups allege Jayasuriya oversaw military units that attacked hospitals and killed, disappeared and tortured thousands of people.

Jayasuriya has diplomatic immunity in the countries where he is ambassador: Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Suriname. But the groups pursuing the suits hope they will compel regional governments to expel him.

The criminal suits, reviewed by the AP, were spearheaded by the human rights group International Truth and Justice Project, an evidence-gathering organization based in South Africa. The suits have three central aims: push local authorities to open investigations of Jayasuriya, remove his diplomatic immunity and expel him.

According to the suits, Jayasuriya oversaw an offensive from Joseph Camp, also known as Vanni, which the papers claim was a notorious torture site. The International Truth and Justice Project said it interviewed 14 survivors of torture or sexual violence at the camp. According to the group, victims described hearing the howls of detainees at night, which the suits contend Jayasuriya would have been able to hear.

Carlos Castresana Fernandez, the lawyer coordinating the effort, told The Associated Press on Monday night that suits were filed Monday in Brazil and Colombia. Petitions also will be filed in Argentina, Chile and Peru in the coming days, he said, adding that authorities in Suriname refused to accept the suit.

“This is one genocide that has been forgotten, but this will force democratic countries to do something,” Fernandez said. “This is just the beginning of the fight.”

Calls to the Sri Lankan embassy in Brazil’s capital went unanswered Monday evening, as did an email seeking comment.

Jayasuriya’s whereabouts were not immediately known. Fernandez said Brazilian justice officials told him Jayasuriya had left Brazil on Sunday. That couldn’t be independently confirmed.

First Published: Aug 29, 2017 20:28 IST