Hold Gotabhaya accountable for war-crimes, writes NYU Professor of Law
"Even if Gota[bhaya Rajapakse] never sees the inside walls of a US prison, the White House could send a powerful signal of its commitment to accountability by formally investigating and, if the evidence is there, indicting Gota[bhaya]," writes Ryan Goodman, Professor of Law at New York University School of Law in the on line forum called Justice and Security which provides rigorous analysis of U.S. foreign policy, national security and law. "Because of Gota’s citizenship the US would also be less vulnerable to accusations of meddling. And, indeed, the US administration could also suspend its own criminal inquiry, in a very public way, on the ground that it will give Sri Lanka’s political establishment an opportunity to do the right thing. Congressional members can very publicly support the initiation of a full-blown criminal inquiry by the Justice Department," Goodman said.
"…there is also prima facie evidence in the public record that he [Gotabhaya] ordered the execution of political leaders and their families upon their surrender, that he directed the systematic bombing of civilian hospitals, and that he repeatedly suggested that he could target and deliberately kill innocent civilians in order to win the war against the LTTE. That’s just the public record," Goodman writes, adding, "[t]here is good reason to believe the Justice Department is sitting on a trove of additional incriminating evidence against Gotabhaya."
Noting Gotabhaya’s US citizenship, Goodman adds, "[a]s a citizen of the United States, Sri Lanka’s Defense Secretary is directly liable under Congress’s War Crimes Act—a legal windfall for any US effort to investigate and prosecute him across international borders. His citizenship also expands US policy space—by reducing US vulnerability to accusations of meddling if we go after one of our own. That’s the upside to taking such actions."
Goodman also urged the U.S. administration to publicly release some of the intelligence that it might have in its possession such as phone intercepts of Gota’s orders and satellite imagery of the last stages of the war. "In a post-Snowden world, revelation that the United States has these capacities and engages in such SIGINT operations is nothing new. At least the cost is not as high to revealing this information, and its public exposure can be especially valuable in mobilizing efforts toward accountability," Goodman notes.