US grants immunity to Sri Lanka President from lawsuit brought by pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora

Tuesday, 17 January 2012 00:35 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The United States has granted Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa immunity from a law suit filed in a US court against him by the pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora.

The US filed a Suggestion of Immunity at the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday (13) for President Rajapaksa recognising him as the sitting head of state of a foreign state.

The document was filed in court by the Assistant Attorney General Tony West following up on a letter from the legal Adviser of the US Department of State Harold Hongju Koh.

The Legal Adviser of the US Department of State has informed the Department of Justice that Sri Lanka has formally requested the Government of the United States to suggest the immunity of President Rajapaksa from the lawsuit.

In his letter to the Assistant Attorney General, the State Department legal Adviser said his letter recognises the particular importance attached by the United States to obtaining the prompt dismissal of the proceedings in view of the significant foreign policy implications of such an action.

The Assistant Attorney General’s document points out to the US District Court that the Executive Branch of the US Government has the sole authority to grant immunity to a sitting head of a state and it cannot be questioned by the courts.

The interest of the United States in this matter arises from a determination by the Executive Branch of the Government of the United States, in consideration of the relevant principles of customary international law, and in the implementation of its foreign policy and in the conduct of its international relations, to recognise President Rajapaksa’s immunity from this suit while in office, the court documents said. Declaring that this determination is controlling and is not subject to judicial review, the Assistant Attorney General’s document said that no court has ever subjected a sitting head of state to suit once the Executive Branch has suggested the head of state’s immunity.

In this case, because the Executive Branch has determined that President Rajapaksa, as the sitting head of a foreign state, enjoys head of state immunity from the jurisdiction of US courts in light of his current status, President Rajapaksa is entitled to immunity from the jurisdiction of this Court over this suit, the Assistant Attorney General wrote. The lawsuit filed by Kasippillai Manoharan and two others 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) terrorists.