Jagath Dias

30.10.2011 ( Last modified: 31.10.2019 )
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facts

In 2007, Major General Jagath Dias, was appointed as the General Officer commanding the 4 brigades of the 57th Division of the Sri Lankan Army. As the commanding officer, Major General Dias is allegedly directly involved in the planning and execution of the offensive operations conducted in the Vanni (the mainland area of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka), during the final stage of the war conducted by the Sri Lankan Army against the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).

Between September 2008 and May 2009, the 57th Division carried out targeted bombings against the security zone where civilians had taken refuge, against hospitals, and humanitarian and religious sites.

The allegations of war crimes are corroborated by a report from UN experts – Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, 31 March 2011 – in which both the Sri Lankan government and LTTE are accused of the death of tens of thousands of civilians.

The UN found that around 330,000 civilians were trapped into an ever decreasing area, fleeing the shelling but kept hostage by the LTTE. The Government bombed on a large scale in three consecutive No Fire Zones, where it had encouraged the civilian population to concentrate, even after indicating that it would cease the use of heavy weapons. It shelled the UN hubs, food distribution lines, and near the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ships coming to give relief to the population. The Sri Lankan Army also shelled hospitals on the front lines in the Vanni, despite the fact that it was well aware of their locations.

Moreover, the Government systematically deprived people in the conflict zone of humanitarian aid and subjected victims and survivors of the conflict to further deprivation and suffering, after they left the conflict zone. Screening for suspected LTTE took place without any transparency or external scrutiny. Some of those people have been summarily executed or disappeared, and some of the women may have been raped. All IDPs were detained in closed camps where they were deprived of basic social and economic rights, and in some cases interrogated, subjected to torture, or moved to other facilities, as they were suspected of being members of the LTTE.

The Sri Lankan government has acknowledged that excesses by military or police may have taken place and that a few cases are pending. However, it is not clear which cases are pending and it is instead evident that the Government is focusing more on the culpability of LTTE members than trying to comply with the notion of accountability.

On 4 August 2011, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) and TRIAL – Swiss Association against Impunity – filed a criminal complaint with the Federal Attorney General against the former Major General Jagath Dias for war crimes.

legal procedure

On 4 August 2011, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) and TRIAL – Swiss Association against Impunity – filed a criminal complaint with the Federal Attorney General against the former Major General Jagath Dias for war crimes.

On 24 January 2011, STP and TRIAL urged the Swiss Federal Council to take action against Jagath Dias for the first time. On 3 May, they asked the FDFA publicly to declare Dias “persona non grata” and to withdraw his diplomatic visa. At the beginning of September 2011, Dias was stripped of his diplomatic status. This would be the first case where a diplomat is dismissed due to allegations of having committed international crimes.

The Swiss Federal Attorney General indicated that a criminal investigation would be launched if Dias came back on Swiss territory.