Sri Lanka Case Hearing – Lasantha Wickrematunge

This hearing is prepared together with the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA).

The case of Lasantha Wickrematunge will be heard at The People’s Tribunal on the Murder of Journalists. The hearing is currently being rescheduled in light of lockdown restrictions in the Netherlands, the exact date will be announced shortly.

To receive a reminder one week before the hearing, you can register here.

Day 1 of the case hearing will be livestreamed here.
Day 2 of the case hearing will be livestreamed here.

The Government of Sri Lanka has been officially notified about the Prosecution’s
indictment by the independent Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT). The indictment alleges the government’s complicity in failing to protect Lasantha Wickrematunge. The government has been invited to exercise its right of defense during the hearing. More information about the case hearing will soon be added to the FAQ section.

During the first day, the Prosecutor will hear witnesses on impunity for crimes against of the hearing
journalists in Sri Lanka. Witnesses will, among others, testify, on specific groups of journalists
at risk, impunity for crimes against journalists, and the role of the State in the prevention and
investigation of these crimes.

The second day is dedicated to the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge. The Prosecutor presents
the evidence collected and hears witnesses, who will speak about Lasantha Wickrematunge’s life
and work, the circumstances of his death and the State investigation of the murder.

About Lasantha Wickrematunge:

Lasantha Wickrematunge was a leading independent journalist covering the Sri Lankan civil war.

He co-founded an English-language weekly called the Sunday Leader, which he ran from 1994 until his death. He became a government target due to his reportage on senior officials during the civil war.

From 2006 onwards, he particularly came on a collision course with the brothers Mahinda Rajapaksa, then serving as President, and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, then serving as Secretary of Defence.

During their terms, they were responsible for acts including torture, extrajudicial killing, and failure to investigate gross human rights violations. Journalists and political dissidents were specifically targeted.

Lasantha was assassinated on 8 January 2009 by a group of black-clad motor cyclists on his drive to work. He died in the hospital a few hours after the attack. Three days later, The Sunday Leader posted the posthumous editorial ‘Letter from the Grave’, in which Lasantha had foreseen his own death and attributed it to the government – specifically the Rajapaksa’s.

“When finally I am killed, it will be the Government that kills me. I hope my assassination will be seen not as a defeat of freedom but an inspiration for those who survive to step up their efforts. Indeed, I hope that it will help galvanise forces that will usher in a new era of human liberty in our beloved motherland.”

– Lasantha Wickrematunge’s posthumous editorial, published three days after his assassination.

The government has failed to undertake a credible investigation into the murder. Instead, witnesses were intimidated, investigation efforts were obstructed, and evidence was tampered with. CJA brought these violations as claims under universal jurisdiction in the U.S., but litigation was halted when Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected as president and enjoyed immunity in that capacity.