American University Washington College of Law’s Human Rights Clinic in a press release issued today said that it has filed civil action at the District Court of New York Southern District (SDNY), on behalf of two Tamil plaintiffs against Sri Lanka’s ex-Army General and currently Sri Lanka’s Acting Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Shavendra Silva, on charges of torture and wrongful death. The civil action under the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA) called for declaratory relief and compensatory and punitive damages for torts in violation of international and domestic law.
Ali Beydoun, lead counsel on this case, director at AU’s UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic, and a Senior Partner at SPEAK Human Rights Initiative, said in the release “as commander of the 58th Division, General Silva was responsible for conducting Sri Lanka’s bitter and brutal war against Tamils in northern Sri Lanka, and directly caused the untold suffering of thousands of Tamil civilians. Under the auspices of “fighting terrorism”, General Silva led the Army’s campaign of war crimes and crimes against humanity across northern Sri Lanka.
“In particular, protected persons – civilians – and protected places – hospitals – were deliberately attacked by General Silva and his forces, which violates Sri Lankan law, American law and international law. General Silva is also responsible for the torture and extrajudicial executions of surrendering members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), in clear contravention of the laws of war,” Beydoun said.
Legal sources close to the filing told TamilNet that service of the complaint and the court’s summons was successfully completed against Silva’s personal residence around 4 pm Friday.
The two plaintiffs, Vathsala Devi, whose husband Col. Ramesh was tortured and killed after he had surrendered to the army, and Seetharam Sivam, whose injured father was killed by Sri Lanka Army shelling of Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital, allege that Silva conspired with, aided and abetted and alternatively exercised command and control over the perpetrators of torture, extrajudicial execution and fatal shelling of civilians. The perpetrators belonged to military, security, or paramilitary forces that were directed by and operated with Silva’s express, implicit, or delegated authorization and practical assistance or encouragement. Moreover, SILVA had knowledge of these acts, or had information at the time that should have enabled him to conclude such attacks were occurring or were going to occur, and in these instances he either failed to prevent or stop the attack or waived any punishment for the perpetrators.
Tamils Against Genocide (TAG), a US-based activist group, said of the filing, “inexorably, the post-Mu’l’livaaykkaal justice movement to hold perpetrators of war crimes against Tamils accountable has been gathering transnational force. The ATS/TVPA civil action filed against Sri Lanka’s UN representative, Silva, strikes at the heart of UN diplomatic calculations which knowingly harbored a war criminal in its corridors since the Tamil killing field.
“Contrary to erroneous presumptions of the Rajapakse administration, Silva cannot dismiss the claim on immunity grounds, since as a UN official, he possesses only functional, and not diplomatic, immunity protections within American jurisdiction. As such, and now that he has been served, the prospects of further revelatory truth-telling through depositions and prosecution are promising, and will likely make Silva the first of many army officials to be dragged into a non-Sri Lankan court to face Tamil justice unmitigated by racial prejudice,” TAG spokesperson said.
Professor Francis Boyle, an expert in International Law, commenting on the reported UN job said earlier, “the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) is trying to sanitize and immunize their genocidaires/war criminals and thus regularize it all.”
Shavendra Silva’s appointment to UN followed two similar appointments of alleged war-criminals, Major General Jagath Dias as a diplomat to Germany, and the Chief of Staff of Sri Lanka’s forces during the war, Donald Perera, as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Israel.
Dias was recently recalled to Colombo after the Swiss Government announced that an investigation on alleged war-crimes against Jagath Dias was imminent if he stayed in Europe.