An Australian citizen has filed two counts of war crimes charges against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website] for abuses that he allegedly witnessed in 2007 and 2008 as the Sri Lankan civil war drew to a close. Jegen Warran claims to have witnessed intentional attacks [ABC News report] by Sri Lankan military forces against civilian targets including a working hospital, killing patients and other civilians. The filing also alleges that the president ordered the unlawful detention of Tamil civilians. The case is now under review by Australian Attorney General Robert McClelland [official website], whose consent will be needed for the case to proceed. The filing comes as Rajapaksa is scheduled to arrive in Australia this week to participate in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) [official website], a biannual meeting of the prime ministers and presidents of its member countries. The meeting will take place in Perth, Australia, where leaders are set to discuss both local and global issues and to develop related policies and initiatives.
This filing follows closely behind a call last week [JURIST report] from the International Commission of Jurists, Australian Section (ICJA) [advocacy website] for Australia to investigate a top ranking official in the Sri Lankan High Commission [official website] in Canberra for war crimes violations allegedly committed by the Sri Lankan Navy during clashes with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [JURIST news archive] in 2009. Last month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] sent a report [JURIST report] to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] accusing Sri Lankan troops of killing tens of thousands of civilians during the civil war. In April, a UN panel of experts on Sri Lanka found credible allegations of war crimes [JURIST report] committed during the country's war with the LTTE, warranting further investigation. In December, the Sri Lankan Ministry of External Affairs [official website] announced that the UN panel would be allowed to visit [JURIST report] the island to look into alleged war crimes. The decision signaled a reversal after months of strong opposition [JURIST report] from the Sri Lankan government, which described the UN panel as an infringement of Sri Lanka's sovereignty.