The Jagath Dias Case
22 September 2011 Jagath Dias, Major General of the Sri Lankan Army during the final stages of the civil war in Sri Lanka and subsequently vice-ambassador for Germany, Switzerland and the Vatican until October 2011, faces criminal investigations in case of his re-entry to Switzerland. Based on a Dossier by ECCHR about Jagath Dias, the Swiss Federal Prosecutor announced the initiation of a formal criminal investigation against Jagath Dias in case of his return to the country. Likewise, allegations of crimes under international law during the Sri Lankan civil war are already under preliminary investigation in Germany.
It is alleged that the former Major General is responsible for war crimes committed during the final phase of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009. In January 2011, ECCHR sent a comprehensive dossier substantiating the allegations put forward against Dias to the German Federal Foreign Office and then jointly with the Society for Threatened Peoples Switzerland and TRIAL to the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and requested the withdrawal of his diplomatic visa. In particular, the dossier listed incidents of attacks carried out by the 57th Division under Dias’ command and directed against civilians in no-fire-zones, as well as against hospitals, religious sites and humanitarian institutions. Both Swiss organizations filed a criminal complaint based on the ECCHR-Dossier and an UN-Expert Panel Report in Switzerland in August 2011. According to the report by the United Nations, approximately 40.000 civilians died during this phase of the conflict.
Until his withdrawal as vice-ambassador, Dias enjoyed diplomatic immunity, which he had been granted by the diplomatic visa in Germany and Switzerland, shielding him from any criminal investigation and prosecution. For this reason, ECCHR requests the German and Swiss governments to ensure that alleged crimes under international law are effectively investigated already during the process of granting a visa to diplomatic embassy staff. In situations in which impartial investigations in the sending state or through international entities have so far not been carried out, the German and Swiss authorities must ensure that, if necessary, preliminary investigations are conducted by the competent Federal Prosecutors. A second case Jagath Dias, in which the issuance of a diplomatic visa granting diplomatic immunity rules out the possibility to prosecute an alleged war criminal, must be avoided under all circumstances.