The District Court for the Southern District of New York has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Tamil victims of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka against Shavendra Silva, a former Sri Lanka Army general, who is now Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, a statement released in Washington today said.
Tamil plaintiffs in the case turned to a U.S. court to obtain redress and establish the truth about the deaths of their relatives, a human rights group said in the statement.
The right group known as SPEAK has accused the Sri Lankan government of refusing to acknowledge its responsibility for any violations of international law, even in the face of the United Nations’ conclusion that its wartime conduct “represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law.”
Although acknowledging “the gravity of the allegations made by the plaintiffs,” Judge J. Paul Oetken concluded that Silva’s diplomatic immunity precluded the court from looking at the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims.
“We hope that the Court reconsiders, rectifies its position and enforces ‘jus cogens’ principles,” said Sivakumaren Mardemootoo, co-director of SPEAK Human Rights & Environmental Initiative.
“Interpreting the law to provide a diplomatic ‘cloak’ of protection to Silva—who is seen as a war hero in Sri Lanka, but as a war criminal by the United Nations Panel of Experts—contravenes the U.S. Congress’s intent behind the law,” said Ali Beydoun, co-director at SPEAK and director of the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic.