Bruce Fein, the attorney for the three Tamil plaintiffs who filed war-crimes charges against Sri Lanka’s President Rajapakse, said Saturday that his clients have given consent to file an appeal against the ruling by the District Court of District of Columbia. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said in the Court opinion that she had to dismiss the case because the Obama administration had said Rajapakse was immune from litigation as a foreign head of state. The appeal will be heard by a panel of three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit after the notice of appeal is filed within 30 days of the lower court ruling on the case.
Bruce Fein, when queried on the decision to proceed with the appeal, told TamilNet:
- The decision to appeal the District Court’s dismissal of the TVPA suit against President Rajapaksa on the Suggestion of Immunity by the Department of Justice and to postpone suits against Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Sareth Fonseka pivots on two grounds.
The District Court’s ruling verges on the obtuse and is exceptionally vulnerable to reversal by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The ruling relies on irrelevant precedents, and invents of canon of statutory construction that Congress is presumed to enact meaningless statutes that leave international common law undisturbed unless it explicitly declares the statute is intended to be law, not mere wallpaper. The case has attracted widespread national and international media attention, which is invaluable publicity shining the spotlight on GOSL atrocities. I believe the constitutional issue raised by the litigation against President Rajapaksa is a good candidate for ultimate review in the United States Supreme Court.
In addition, to sue Gotabaya and Fonseka now would diminish the moral pressure on the courts to uphold the TVPA suit against President Rajapaksa because the judges would perceive that dismissing the case would not leave the TVPA victims of the President’s abominations without a remedy, i.e., they could sue the President’s henchmen.
Finally, the statute of limitations for TVPA suits is 10 years. Thus, awaiting the outcome of an appeal of the TVPA suit against President Rajapaksa will not prejudice our ability to sue Gotabaya and Fonseka later, Fein said. The complaint for this case alleged multiple violations of the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA) based on Sri Lanka’s President Rajapaksa’s command responsibility for the extrajudicial killings of Ragihar Manoharan, the son of Plaintiff Dr. Kasippillai Manoharan, of Premas Anandarajah, a humanitarian aid worker for Action Against Hunger, and husband of Plaintiff Kalaiselvi Lavan, and four members of the Thevarajah family, all relatives of Plaintiff Jeyakumar Aiyathurai.