Home World Slain Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge’s daughter files U.N. complaint

Slain Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge’s daughter files U.N. complaint

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Lasantha Wickrematunge’s 2009 assassination came to symbolise alleged government abuses and impunity during the country’s civil war.

A daughter of a slain Sri Lankan journalist filed a complaint on January 8 with the United Nations Human Rights Committee over alleged government involvement in her father’s death 12 years ago.

The San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability filed the complaint on behalf of Ahimsa Wickrematunge, the daughter of Lasantha Wickrematunge, who was allegedly killed by a military-linked hit squad while driving to work on January 8, 2009.

Also read | 5 military officers held over editor’s murder

Lasantha Wickrematunge, editor of the now-defunct Sunday Leader newspaper, was a strong critic of current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was a powerful defence official at the time. Mr. Gotapaya Rajapaksa’s older brother, current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, was President at the time.

Lasantha Wickrematunge’s assassination came to symbolise alleged government abuses and impunity during the country’s civil war. It featured prominently in an investigation conducted by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2015.

The complaint says Lasantha Wickrematunge was killed a few days before he was to testify in a defamation case filed by Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa over an article implicating him in a corruption scandal involving the purchase of fighter planes. At the time Sri Lankan forces were fighting the final months of the decades-long civil war with ethnic Tamil rebels.

Sri Lankans shout slogans against the government during the funeral procession of the “Sunday Leader” newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, in Colombo on January 12, 2009. His daughter filed a complaint on January 8, 2021, with the United Nations Human Rights Committee over alleged government involvement in her father’s death.

Sri Lankans shout slogans against the government during the funeral procession of the “Sunday Leader” newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, in Colombo on January 12, 2009. His daughter filed a complaint on January 8, 2021, with the United Nations Human Rights Committee over alleged government involvement in her father’s death.
 
| Photo Credit:
AP

 

Both government forces and the defeated rebels have been accused of grave human rights abuses.

Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colambage said he had not seen the complaint, and given its sensitive nature was unable to comment without ascertaining the view of the political leadership.

On the day of his killing, Lasantha Wickrematunge was followed by men on motorbikes, and when he stopped at a busy intersection they smashed his car window and punched a hole in his head with a sharp instrument.

The complaint says law enforcement agencies either failed to conduct a credible investigation or actively interfered with attempts to conduct one.

A new probe was initiated after Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa lost a presidential election in 2015, but political infighting in the new government prevented a conclusion to the case.

There has been no progress in the investigation since Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected President.

In 2019, Ms. Ahimsa Wickrematunge filed a lawsuit in a Los Angeles court seeking damages from Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa for alleged involvement in the killing. The court dismissed the suit, saying it lacked jurisdiction because Mr. Gotapaya Rajapaksa was entitled to foreign official immunity. Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was a U.S. dual citizen at the time.

The complaint requests that the Human Rights Committee ensure that Sri Lanka conducts an independent investigation, prosecutes those responsible, and apologizes to and compensates the Wickrematunge family.

The Human Rights Committee is a group of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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