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Singapore moved to indict the exiled Sri Lankan leader

#Singapore #moved #indict #exiled #Sri #Lankan #leader

An international human rights group has formally asked Singapore to indict Sri Lanka’s ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for crimes against humanity during his country’s decades-long civil war, officials said on Monday.

Rajapaksa fled his country earlier this month after his official residence was stormed by tens of thousands of protesters angry at the island nation’s painful economic crisis.

He later fled to the Maldives on a military plane and traveled on to Singapore, from where he tendered his resignation.

Rajapaksa headed Sri Lanka’s defense ministry while his brother Mahinda was president and held the post when the country’s brutal Tamil separatist conflict ended bloodily in 2009.

Human rights groups have accused government forces of killing 40,000 Tamil civilians in an all-out offensive in the final weeks of the war.

The South Africa-based International Truth and Justice Project said it had called on Singapore to exercise its universal jurisdiction to arrest the former president for serious violations of international humanitarian law.

“This includes murder, execution, torture and inhumane treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence, deprivation of liberty, severe physical and mental harm, and starvation,” the 63-page ad said.

Singapore’s Attorney General’s Office (AGC) confirmed on Monday it had received a complaint from the group over the weekend, without giving further details.

The once-powerful Rajapaksa clan has long claimed that no civilians were killed in its crackdown on a Tamil Tiger separatist movement, defying repeated international calls for an independent investigation.

Shortly after coming to power in November 2019, Rajapaksa, a retired army lieutenant colonel, granted a pardon and freed an army sergeant on death row for the murder of eight Tamils, including three children.

Last year Rajapaksa granted amnesty to his close associate Duminda Silva, another convicted killer who was on death row for the murder of a former lawmaker and four others.

Sri Lanka does not carry out the death penalty in practice and those convicted were serving life sentences when the ex-president released them despite local and international condemnation.

Rajapaksa has also been accused of leading death squads, but he denied kidnapping and killing dissidents and journalists when he served as defense minister between 2005 and 2015.

Two cases against him in a California court were frozen in 2019 after he became president and gained sovereign immunity.

One was submitted by 11 people who survived the torture, while the other was submitted by the daughter of a prominent anti-establishment editor who was allegedly killed at Rajapaksa’s behest.

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