The Hazards of Speaking at the Oxford Union: Will the U.K Arrest Sri Lanka’s President

by Julian Ku

I don’t know enough about the facts or the law in the U.K. to know whether there is a serious basis for charging Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa with war crimes arising out of the conflict last year with Tamil Separatists.  But it looks like there will be an attempt to force his detention and a war crimes investigation during his visit this week to speak at the Oxford Union.

Lawyers working for Tamil activists are attempting to obtain a war crimes arrest warrant against Sri Lanka‘s president and senior member of his entourage who have arrived in Britain.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose government defeated the separatist Tamil Tigers last year amid humanitarian protests about the treatment of civilians trapped in the war zone, is due to speak at the Oxford Union on Thursday.

The visit comes as Tamil supporters claim to have acquired a video showing a former Tamil Tiger colonel being interrogated by Sri Lankan forces. His family allege he was killed after surrendering

I guess the glory of speaking at the Oxford Union outweighs the risk of arrest for war crimes.

2 Responses

  1. Not a chance.  (1) Head of state immunities apply, and (2) jurisdiction over those present in UK (as opposed to resident) restricted to torture, hostage taking and Grave Breaches of GCs (i.e. requiring a nexus to international armed conflict).  Most of the alleged crimes in Sri Lanka over last couple of years seem to fall under war crimes committed in civil war (lack of distinction between civilian and military targets, lack of proportionality) in North, and enforced disappearances in South – perhaps amounting to a CAH.  Unless these activists have a good torture case that stretches up to the President then they’ve no chance.  I advised one of them not to waste their time.  Such fruitless cases make good headlines for the activists but undermine others’ attempts to build serious cases against equally senior alleged perpetrators who are either resident and occasionally present in the UK.

  2. The talk was canceled, arguably due to ‘security concerns’:

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