Rajapakse gets a taste of his caged future

It’s not just Israeli war criminals who have to watch where they travel; justice will follow you everywhere:

The president of Sri Lanka has called off a visit to Britain after exiled Tamil groups announced that they would attempt to have him arrested over alleged war crimes.

The trip by Mahinda Rajapakse, which would have included an address to the Oxford Union, was aborted at short notice after Tamil activists said they would seek a warrant under the principle of universal jurisdiction which allows prosecution in this country for alleged human rights abuses committed abroad.

The Sri Lankan government maintained there had been a change of plan due to Mr Rajapakse’s busy schedule and the Foreign Office in London said in a statement it “had no indication” that fears over being detained was the reason behind the cancellation.

The foreign ministry in Colombo insisted that the visit has been “postponed” to a later date. This, in effect, would avert the embarrassment of an attempted arrest, as the British government is in the process of amending the universal jurisdiction law which had led to a number of foreign governments expressing concern.

The Israeli government announced, on the eve of a visit by British foreign secretary William Hague, that it was breaking off “strategic dialogue” with London after Israeli deputy prime minister Dan Meridor became the latest senior figure from the country to scrap plans to come to England because of concerns of legal action.

In the most high-profile case of universal jurisdiction, the former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, was arrested by Scotland Yard during a visit to the UK in 1998 over tortures and murder committed by his military junta when he was in power.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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