Sri Lankan prosecutor’s drops charges against former navy chief linked to 11 abduction and killings of 11 men

Sri Lankan authorities have dropped charges, including conspiracy to murder, against a former navy chief linked to 11 killings that drew international condemnation, the country’s attorney general announced on 13 October

The investigation against Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda was part of a case that cast a spotlight on extrajudicial killings during Sri Lanka’s 37-year ethnic war that ended in 2009

The “Navy 11” case refers to the enforced disappearance of 11 Tamil youth in 2008-2009, allegedly in an abduction racket spearheaded by members of the Sri Lankan Navy. Senior military commanders are implicated.

Killings that drew international condemnation, the country’s attorney general announced on Wednesday

In August 2018 the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the police arrested Lt. Commander Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi, alias “Navy Sampath”, as the main suspect. The CID accused then Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Ravindra Wijeguneratne of shielding one of the main suspects, and the court also ordered his arrest. In February 2019, former Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, was named as the 14th suspect in the case. He was accused of having known about the enforced disappearance by naval personnel he had command responsibility over, and choosing to take no action. On 4 August 2021, media reported that the Attorney General’s department had decided not to proceed with charges against Karannagoda.

The “Navy 11” case has faced many obstacles in the Sri Lankan courts.In January 2020, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a Presidential Commission of Inquiry into “political victimization” under the previous government. Many state officials facing trial over human rights violations have complained of being “politically targeted” by the previous government, and have sought the Commission’s support in absolving them from ongoing court cases. As a result, the Commission has intervened in cases that are pending before courts, especially where military members are implicated.

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