US Law Professor Ryan Goodman, in an article to New York Times, today says that former Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka, a US citizen, faces the risk of prosecution under US laws over alleged war crimes.
“As a citizen, Mr. Rajapaksa can be held liable under the War Crimes Act of 1996, which puts war crimes anywhere in the world under the jurisdiction of United States courts if the perpetrator, or the victim, is a United States citizen. Put another way, the United States has a perfect justification to go after Mr. Rajapaksa individually,” Goodman said.
The law Professor added that Gotabaya Rajapaksa was a naturalized American citizen who used to live in Los Angeles, where he worked as a computer systems operator at Loyola Law School.
“The United States could help by signaling its own interest in opening a criminal case against Mr. Rajapaksa in the event that Sri Lanka doesn’t. That would give the new government both an opportunity and a justification to clean its house. Because of Mr. Rajapaksa’s citizenship, the United States would also be less vulnerable to accusations that it was meddling in the affairs of another nation,” Goodman added.
He also says the UN led inquiry offers both too much and too little at this point.
“Too much, because pushing for full, sweeping accountability in this fragile moment of transition could destabilize the new government and jeopardize the warming of relations between the United States and Sri Lanka. Too little, because the United Nations investigation doesn’t have any teeth — the panel leading it doesn’t have the powers of a criminal tribunal, and cannot even impose a financial penalty,” the Professor stated.