My Neighbor the Suspected War Criminal | Documentry on Gotabaya Rajapaksa
After the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war, families seeking accountability for state-sanctioned violence filed a suit against a man they say is a war criminal. A private eye was tasked with hunting down Gotabaya Rajapaksa (better known as Gota), Sri Lanka’s former defense minister. The P.I. found the alleged war criminal in Southern California, shopping at Trader Joe’s.
At the close of World War II, dozens of former Nazi leaders came to the United States. After decades of inaction, in 1979, President Jimmy Carter created a special unit within the Department of Justice dedicated to hunting down Nazi war criminals. Decades after passing the first substantive human rights statutes that make it possible to prosecute war criminals for crimes like torture and genocide, the U.S. has successfully prosecuted only one person under the laws. Sriskandarajah talks to experts about why prosecutors often take an “Al Capone” strategy to going after war criminals, pursuing them on lesser charges like immigration violations rather than human rights abuses.
With little action from the government to prosecute war criminals, victims of violence are instead using civil lawsuits to try to seek accountability. Lawyers at the Center for Justice & Accountability have brought two dozen cases against alleged war criminals and human rights violators – and never lost at trial. But when the lawyers share their evidence with the federal government, it often feels like the information disappears into a black box.