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The Swiss Federal Attorney General confirms that he will open a war crimes investigation if Jagath Dias comes back to Switzerland.

Following a criminal complaint brought by TRIAL (Swiss association against impunity) and the Society for threatened peoples (SPM) against the Sri Lankan Deputy Ambassador to Switzerland, Jagath Dias, for war crimes, the Swiss Federal Attorney General has decided that a criminal investigation will be launched if Mr. Dias were to come back on Swiss territory, because of “his personal involvement in the atrocities committed”.
On 13 September, media reports already announced that Mr. Dias, former Deputy Ambassador for Sri Lanka in Germany, Switzerland and the Vatican, had been stripped of his diplomatic status because he was strongly suspected of having committed war crimes. During the last phase of the internal conflict in Sri Lanka he was the major general of the 57th Division of the Sri Lankan Army, which is accused of intensive shelling of civilians, hospitals and religious sites. In August 2011, TRIAL and the SPM filed a criminal complaint with the Federal Attorney General against Jagath Dias for war crimes based on the previous facts.

The above-mentioned organisations have just received a 5-page decision dating back to 16 September 2011 by which the Federal Attorney General decided not to open an investigation, on the ground that Mr. Dias was no longer present on Swiss territory. However, the Federal Attorney General pointed out that several episodes of the conflict “highlight Mr Dias' personal involvement in the military operations undertaken and in the attrocities committed”. Accordingly, the federal judicial authority considers that “the existing suspicions against him are enough to justify the opening of a criminal investigation” in the event that Mr Dias comes back to Switzerland.

Acknowledging the suffering of victims

TRIAL and the SPM welcome the decision of the Federal Attorney General. According to Philip Grant, the director of TRIAL, “Sri Lanka still denies the extent of the crimes committed. As long as no impartial investigation is carried out in Sri Lanka, the authors of these crimes may be punished abroad”. Angela Mattli, head of campaigns at the SPM, says that “after this judicial decision, the time has now come for the politics to send a clear message to the sri-lankan government: impunity for war crimes is not an option any more”.

The aforementioned organisations now invite the Swiss authorities to put pressure on the Sri-Lankan government to conduct impartial investigations about the war crimes committed by the sri-lankan armed forces and the Tamil Tigers and to prosecute the authors of these crimes.

Context

From the end of 2008 until May 2009, the Sri-Lankan government launched its final offensive to take control of the last territories in the hands of the guerrilla of the Tamil Tigers. The peak of horror was reached during this period: according to UN sources approximately 40,000 civilians were slaughtered. As such, both parties to the conflict have been responsible for multiple serious violations of international law, which, to date, have not been impartially investigated, neither in Sri Lanka nor before an international tribunal.