Court Action

WASHINGTON, January 29, 2011 (AFP) – Members of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority on Friday filed a lawsuit in the United States against the island’s president, seeking $30 million in damages over alleged extrajudicial killings. Activists from the Tamil diaspora spearheaded legal action after President Mahinda Rajapakse quietly traveled to the United States, in a test of how much deference US authorities show to visiting heads of state.

Bruce Fein, a prominent Washington lawyer, said he filed the suit on behalf of three plaintiffs under a 1991 act that allows for action in the United States against foreign officials over torture and extrajudicial killings.

“President Rajapakse will not escape the long arm of justice secured by the Torture Victims Protection Act by hiding in Sri Lanka,” Fein said after the filing in the US District Court in Washington.

Fein said he wanted a reply from Rajapakse and otherwise would seek a ruling without him.

The lawsuit seeks $30 million on behalf of three plaintiffs who said their relatives were killed in three incidents, including the Sri Lankan army’s offensive in 2009 against the final holdout of the Tamil Tiger (LTTE) rebels. The United Nations has said at least 7,000 civil