September 17, 2019
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    US Forces not exempted from criminal jurisdiction - Minister

    May 24, 2019

    Foreign Minister Tilak Marapone had notified the US that it would not be possible to implement the provision to exempt US forces from criminal jurisdiction in Sri Lanka. Public Enterprise, Kandyan Heritage and Kandy Development Minister and Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella responding to JVP MP Bimal Ratnayake, noted that Foreign Minister Tilak Marapone had discussed with the US about the clause in the agreement which gives US forces exemption from criminal jurisdiction of the host country.

    “The third US partnership Dialogue held on May 16, 2019 in Washington was co-chaired by the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister and the US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Dale. During the meeting Minister Marapone had notified the US delegation that Sri Lanka would find it difficult to grant exemption to US forces from criminal jurisdiction to US forces. He also stated that it would be difficult to implement the 1995 SOFA agreement through an exchange of notes. (CN,SM and AM)

    So thereby, we have notified them that if the US soldiers commit a crime while on Sri Lankan soil, they will be liable to come under Sri Lankan criminal jurisdiction. If they commit a crime here, they will have to be dealt with according to local laws.” He said that the Acquisition and Cross Services Agreement (ACSA) was signed in 2007 during the period Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was the Defence Secretary. The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) was signed during President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge’s tenure in 1994.

    “This is the background of these agreements and these are not what we initiated,” he added. Responding to parliamentary questions he said, “Please note that we have no records to prove that any agreements or Memorandum of Understanding have been signed by Sri Lanka with any country which infringes on the sovereignty or security or interfering with the internal affairs of the country, either before or after April 21.”

    The government of Sri Lanka signed the initial ACSA agreement with the USA in 2007 and the signatories to this agreement were the Ambassador to the US, Robert O. Blake and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Kiriella said. “Mahinda Rajapaksa said that two American citizens had signed the agreement.The validity of the agreement was for ten years and was due to expire in March 2017. A new draft was proposed from the US side in July 2016 and in general the contents are similar.

    However, a key difference with regard to timelines said that the ACSA will not need renewal until either party gives 180 days’ notice of its intention to terminate the agreement. There is no renewal clause. This is not a military agreement and it means increased logistics cooperation and not military operations. This agreement has been signed with around 100 countries,” he added.JVP MP Bimal Ratnayake asked Kiriella if these services were to be supplied to US schools or the US military.

    In response, Minister Kiriella said that sometimes foreign militaries come to Sri Lanka but these visits are not for military operations. “Even during the Tsunami the US forces came to Sri Lanka. That was not for military operations.” He noted that the SOFA agreement does not constitute a particular security arrangement with a particular country. It establishes the right and privileges of US personnel in a country and addresses issues such as wearing of uniforms, exemption of taxes and allows carrying of weapons and radio frequencies, exemption from customs regulations and exemption from criminal jurisdiction of the host country.

     

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