A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, in Los Angeles, unsealed a civil lawsuit against former Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa on April 15.
The lawsuit is seeking damages for his alleged involvement in the 2009 killing of journalist Lasantha Wickramatunge, according to CPJâ€™s review of the complaint. The suit was filed under seal by Ahimsa Wickramatunge, Lasanthaâ€™s daughter, on April 4. According to the Centre for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), although authorities in Sri Lanka have claimed to be investigating the case for years, criminal proceedings have not progressed.
â€œFor more than 10 years, authorities in Sri Lanka have utterly failed to deliver justice in the brutal killing of Lasantha Wickramatunge, despite a wealth of evidence pointing to perpetrators,â€ said Steven Butler, the Committee to Protect Journalistsâ€™ Asia programme coordinator, from Manila. â€œPerhaps successful prosecution of the case in a U.S. court will finally spur authorities in Sri Lanka to pursue the murder as they should have from the start.â€
The CPJ reported that the complaint against Rajapaksa describes a broad campaign against journalists during the decade he served as defence minister, from 2005 to 2015. Lasantha Wickramatunge was editor of The Sunday Leader and exposed alleged corruption by Rajapaksa had been killed on January 9, 2009, allegedly by men who were part of the Tripoli Platoon, operating under Rajapaksaâ€™s command, according to the complaint.
The case was filed under seal with no damages specified, and Rajapaksa was served with papers in Los Angeles on April 7, according to the Center for Justice and Accountability, whose lawyers helped prepare the complaint. In January, the center won a $302.5 million judgement against the Syrian government over the 2012 killing of Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin, as CPJ reported at the time. (CPJ)