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US: Genocide case file against Sri Lankan government

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | February 10, 2009 13:19 IST

Bruce Fein, a former US deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan Administration, has filed a 12-count indictment against Sri Lanka's [Images] defense secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and the country's army commander Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, for perpetrating genocide against Tamil civilians with US Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice.

The indictment filed under the US Genocide Accountabilty Act of 2007, charged both Rajapaksa--brother of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa--and Fonseka with command responsibility for genocidal deaths perpetrated by their subordinates in the Sri Lankan security forces.

In an interview with rediff.com, Fein, legal counsel for the groups Tamils Against Genocide and the  newly formed Tamil Legal Defense Fund, said this is the first genocide indictment filed under the GAA since its was  enacted into law by the US Congress--which applies to genocide irrespective of the place of its occurrence--and  held Rajapaksa and Fonseka complicit because "they are US citizens, green card holders, and we have responsibility as Americans, to make certain that none of our people are involved in genocide, just like we expect other countries  to hold their citizens to the same standards."

He said that as counsel to TAG and TLDF, he had done extensive research and the 12 indictments arose from this research. The indictment charges Rajapaksa and Fonseka with genocide of Tamils in 12 discrete geographic areas of Sri Lanka.

It chronicles more than 3,750 alleged extrajudicial killings, with 10,000 suffering bodily injury and more than 1.3 million displacements, which according to Fein, "far exceed displacements in Kosovo which lead to genocide counts before the International Tribunal for the former Yugolavia."

Asked where he hoped to go with this indictment, Fein said, "We want to have a grand jury investigation opened into it and followed up with an indictment."

He argued that "under the Genocide Convention, there is an obligation of every signatory state like Sri Lanka to extradite persons in their territory that are accused of genocide."

Fein acknowledged, "Now, that, may or may not happen, but, who knows, what the political configuration can turn out to be in Sri Lanka�often times you get surprised, so Mahinda may not be the President by the time we can get an indictment, but he may be. But, even so, you could always say, Alright, we'll drop the indictment, but you got to stop the killings of the civilians, the bombardments, the so-called safe zones, which are about as safe for Tamils as Auschwitz was for Jews."

He said the recent sustained campaign by the Sri Lankan security forces which had captured all of the LTTE [Images] strongholds and virtually eliminated the LTTE as a potent force, while at the same time killing scores of innocent Tamil civilians, "just reinforces the brutality of this regime."

He noted that (Gotabhaya) Rajapaksa had also said in the BBC interview that "if you are not fighting the Tamil Tigers, you are a terrorist and we'll kill you. That's the mentality, and  that if you criticize the government, we'll kill you because you have no right to criticize the government."

"It was quite stunning. He'll (Gotabhaya) be the best witness of the genocide. He said all the things that are conclusive what the mission of the government is about," Fein added.

He said that since Rajapaksa and Fonseka were a US citizen and US resident, "We are hoping that we can also file civil suits against them," on behalf of the victims under a companion statute called the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1991, that enables the victims of their extrajudicial killings or torture to sue in the United States against them."

Fein said that the department of justice had acknowledged receipt of the indictments he had filed "and we are moving forward to try to arrange a face-to-face meeting with the attorney general."

Fein reacted angrily to allegations by the pro-Sri Lankan government and anti-LTTE lobby in the US and Sri Lanka that he was a hired gun of the LTTE lobby in the US. "My whole life is a refutation of terrorism. I have had no contact, I receive no money, I do nothing for the Tamil Tigers. If I did, it would be a crime since the LTTE has been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the US and anyone in the US associated with it in any way could be liable to civil and criminal penalities)."

"All these people are committing defamation," he said. "They are accusing me of committing a crime by supporting terrorism. Everything I do is open. I tell the FBI everything. So, these allegations are preposterous on their face.

Anybody who knows me, gives a crumb of deference to them (these allegations). What they'll be suggesting is that the Department of Justice should have arrested me when I went over and delivered the genocide indictment because I'm helping out terrorists." And, all I can say, I'll put my credibility on the line against them anytime of the day," he added.

Fein, visibly enraged by these accusations and insinuations, said, "Let me also say, what the criticisms also indicate ad hominem is that they're basically saying, 'Yes, we are guilty of everything you say Mr Fein, but you are a hired gun.' OK, fine, you are guilty as can be. Because, this is what I find intriguing. They never, ever want to address the actual substance of the charges�accusations�the truth of what I am saying. So, fine, then you are conceding that you don't have any rebuttal other than to attack my character."

He challenged his critics saying, "If you can attack my character, fine. If you think you are true, go to the FBI and tell them they should be arresting me. And, I'll defend myself there. But, these are very squalid, sordid-based accusations, which, again, if true, I'd be in jail."

Fein said he was not a lobbyist either for the TAG or the TLDF but simply doing their legal work. "To write a legal memorandum �that's not lobbying work. The typical lobbying is you're trying to get the legislative branch to do something--you want Congress to enact a law. I am not asking them to do anything. This (GAA) is the law--you just should enforce the law."

"All this has one mission and one mission only," he reiterated. "Take our Genocide Accountability Act and apply it to our own citizens and green card holders. It has no other agenda. LTTE has nothing to do. Not only in this case, I've never had anything to do with the LTTE, never spoken to the LTTE, never taken a penny from the LTTE, nevergiven a penny to the LTTE."

Fein returning to the allegations against him, asserted, 'Everybody who tries to tarnish this by trying to distract attention is actually conceding they don't know how to rebut to the actual evidence of a genocide."

He said this would really be a test case for the Obama [Images] Administration whether it was really serious about applying the Genocide Accountability Act. "Remember, that the President himself at the campaign said he believed in what you call humanitarian intervention. He was speaking in particular about Darfur(in Sudan). Well, here you've got it. You don't need intervene. All you need to do is apply your own laws in the United States."






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