The California District Court has said it lacks jurisdiction to maintain the case filed against former defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on the basis that he is immune from the law suit under the doctrine of ‘common law foreign immunity’, which includes the acts performed in his official capacity as Sri Lanka's Defence Secretary.
Initially, Plaintiff Ahimsa Wickramatunge filed a case in the US District Court against Mr. Rajapaksa under the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 for the alleged extrajudicial killing of Lasantha Wickramatunge and committing crimes against humanity and torture.
Subsequently, defendant Rajapaksa had sought court, through a motion, to dismiss the case as he was immune from suit under the doctrine of common law foreign official immunity and as such lacks jurisdiction over this action.
The Court had considered the fact that the, “Plaintiff does not dispute that Defendant acted in his official capacity on behalf of the Sri Lankan Government. In fact, because the Plaintiff does not allege that the Defendant took any direct action against Lasantha, her allegations of Rajapaksa’s involvement are reliant upon Defendant’s role as Secretary of Defence.”
The Court had observed that, ‘common law foreign sovereign immunity’ extends to individual foreign officials for “acts performed in their official capacity…” (Shehan Chamika Silva)