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President rejects US court summons

[Sunday Times.lk, Sunday, 19 June 2011 07:44 No Comment]

Sri Lanka has rejected a move by a court in the United States to summon President Mahinda Rajapaksa over a US $ 30 million damages suit against him. The summons, first delivered to ‘Temple Trees’ but not accepted there, was later received by the Ministry of Justice.

“In terms of our own law, we don’t have to respond to such summons,” Justice Ministry Secretary Suhada Gamlath told the Sunday Times. He said the Sri Lankan statute — the Mutual Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters Act No 39 of 2000 — had laid down that the country need not heed such summons, “if we consider that the execution of the request will be prejudicial to the sovereignty of Sri Lanka.”

Section 13 of the Act stipulates that “The Central Authority shall refuse to execute a request made to him under Part II or Part III of this Act, if he considers that the execution of the request will be prejudicial to the sovereignty or security of Sri Lanka.” A provision in Part II (Section 2) states among other matters that “Where the mode of service specified in the request is inconsistent with the law of Sri Lanka, the Judge shall cause such summons or document to be served in accordance with the law of Sri Lanka.”

Bruce Fein, a former deputy Associate Attorney General of the United States and now counsel for the Tamil lobby in the US, first filed a complaint in the District Court of the Southern District of Texas. This was when President Rajapaksa was on a private visit to Texas. Later the case was transferred to the District Court in the District of Columbia.

The complaint alleges violations of the US Torture Victims Protection Act on grounds of what Mr. Fein calls “President Rajapaksa’s command responsibility”. This is said to be over the alleged killing of
Raghiar Manoharan, the son of plaintiff Dr. Kasipillai Manoharan.

“We have informed the District Court of the Southern District of Columbia of our legal position,” Mr. Gamlath added. External Affairs Ministry officials said yesterday the Court action had been planned purely to embarrass President Rajapaksa and the Government of Sri Lanka. “There is an internationally accepted convention that the heads of state enjoy sovereign immunity. Therefore, any move to stop him from visiting the United States would be futile,” a senior official said.

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