January 8, 2021
The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP—acting on behalf of Ahimsa Wickrematunge, the daughter of acclaimed Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge—filed a complaint today against the Government of Sri Lanka with the United Nations Human Rights Committee, seeking accountability for the Government’s role in Mr. Wickrematunge’s 2009 assassination.
Twelve years ago today, Mr. Wickrematunge was brazenly killed by a group of military assassins on the streets of Sri Lanka’s capital, as part of a systematic attack on the free press by government and pro-government groups. Over the past year, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government has overseen a concerted resurgence in the persecution of journalists.
The complaint alleges that the Government of Sri Lanka perpetrated grave violations of fundamental human rights, including the rights to life, freedom from torture, and freedom of expression, by orchestrating Mr. Wickrematunge’s assassination and failing to adequately investigate it or prosecute those responsible for his death. It requests that the Human Rights Committee ensure that the Government of Sri Lanka conducts an independent, exhaustive, and effective investigation into the attack against Mr. Wickrematunge; prosecutes those responsible at all levels of the Government; apologizes to and compensates the Wickrematunge family for the violations they have suffered; and guarantees an end to these human rights violations.
“Today is the anniversary of my father’s assassination and I live every day with the pain of his loss,” said Ms. Wickrematunge. “The Sri Lankan government killed my father for his independent reporting. Twelve years later, I see those responsible for his death in the highest positions of power within the Sri Lankan government, carrying out the same crimes they committed over a decade ago.”
CJA Senior Staff Attorney Nushin Sarkarati said: “Amid ongoing impunity for the crimes it perpetrated against Lasantha twelve years ago, the Sri Lankan government is once again employing the same violent tactics to target critics and the free press. The UN must use this critical opportunity to condemn Sri Lanka’s human rights violations and advance accountability efforts, to ensure impunity can no longer reign.”
For more information on Ahimsa’s case, visit https://cja.org/wickrematunge
About the Center for Justice and Accountability
The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) is a San Francisco-based human rights legal organization dedicated to deterring torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious human rights abuses around the world through innovative litigation and transitional justice strategies. CJA partners with impacted communities seeking truth, justice, and redress, and has successfully brought cases against high-ranking military and public officials for their participation in atrocity crimes. Visit www.cja.org.
About Debevoise & Plimpton
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is a premier law firm with market-leading practices, a global perspective and strong New York roots. Debevoise delivers effective solutions to its clients’ most important legal challenges, applying clear commercial judgment and a distinctively collaborative approach. Debevoise’s globally recognized team of International Dispute Resolution lawyers has extensive experience advising and litigating in relation to all aspects of public international law.