18 April, 2024


UK: Halt Deportations Of Tamils To Sri Lanka

By Colombo Telegraph –

The United Kingdom should suspend deportations of ethnic Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka and immediately review its policies and information about the country’s rights situation used to assess their claims, Human Rights Watch said today. Research by Human Rights Watch has found that some returned Tamil asylum seekers from the United Kingdom have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and torture upon their return to Sri Lanka.

In recent months the British government has sent Tamil asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka on charter flights. Human Rights Watch expressed particular concern about the next scheduled deportation from the United Kingdom of about 100 Tamil asylum seekers, scheduled for February 28, 2012.

“The British government has an international legal obligation not to deport people who have a credible fear of torture upon return,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Convincing reports of arbitrary arrests and torture demand that the UK government suspend returns of rejected Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka until it can fairly and thoroughly assess their individual claims based on up-to-date human rights information on Sri Lanka.”

Human Rights Watch has documented eight recent cases in which people deported to Sri Lanka have faced serious abuses. A Tamil deportee from the United Kingdom, RS (a pseudonym for security reasons), said that army soldiers in Sri Lanka arrested him on December 29, 2011. He alleged that during interrogation he was beaten with batons and burned with cigarettes, and that his head was doused with kerosene. He also said that his head was submerged in a bucket of water, that he was hung upside down, and that hot chilis were placed under his head and chest. He said that as a result of this torture, he confessed to being a member of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which were defeated in May 2009. He said that he paid a substantial bribe to escape from detention, and fled back to the United Kingdom, where he has applied for asylum.

DB, a Tamil deported from the United Kingdom in 2011, said that he was arrested at a Sri Lankan army checkpoint on December 10. He alleged that he was forced to strip naked and burned with cigarettes and beaten until he agreed to sign a document in Sinhala. He said the soldiers told him he had to work as an informer for the army to identify former LTTE cadres. Like RS, he said he escaped detention after a family member paid a bribe for his release, then secured false documents to return to the United Kingdom, where he has again applied for asylum status.

Another 2011 deportee, AH, alleges that he was arrested by the police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) soon after arriving in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. He said that he was stripped naked and was beaten and tortured until a family member paid a bribe for his release.

Human Rights Watch has also documented cases of Tamil deportees who alleged to have been subjected to rape as a form of torture upon their return to Sri Lanka. In December 2010, CB was arrested at the Colombo airport on his return and was detained for a month by the CID. He said that during this time he was beaten with metal rods and raped four or five times by two men. As he described it, one man would hold him down while the other raped him.

BK, a Tamil woman, alleges that she was arrested at Colombo airport by the CID on her return in April 2010 and kept in detention. She says was raped by several men many times during the course of her detention. She described profuse bleeding as a result of these rapes. Both CB and BK managed to secure their release after relatives intervened to bribe the officials holding them. Both fled Sri Lanka and are seeking asylum in the United Kingdom.

Human Rights Watch has obtained medical evidence supporting each of the above claims of torture.

Asylum tribunals in the United Kingdom have recently concluded that the lack of an official identification card is not a risk factor for returnees. However, in two cases returnees alleged that they were specifically targeted because they did not possess the required IDs.

At a parliamentary debate on Sri Lanka on February 22, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Alexander Burt said: “We are aware of media allegations that returnees are being abused. All have been investigated by the high commission, and no evidence has been found to substantiate any of them.”

Human Rights Watch and others have learned that returnees are met at the Colombo airport by UK embassy staff and given a document with the contact information for the embassy. British officials have stated that they do not have the capacity to monitor the safety of returnees and that returnees may fear retaliation from the Sri Lankan government if they make contact with the UK embassy.

“The United Kingdom and other countries considering the claims of Tamil asylum seekers need to recognize the reality of what may await them on return,” Adams said. “Meeting returnees at the airport and giving them a phone number has not prevented them from being wrongfully arrested and mistreated. This should come as no surprise since abuses against Tamils suspected of links to the LTTE have long been recorded in official UK documents.”

The UK Border Agency’s Operational Guidance Note on Sri Lanka, last updated in December, acknowledges that torture is widespread in Sri Lanka: “The UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) stated that they remain seriously concerned about the continued and consistent allegations of widespread use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of suspects in police custody, especially to extract confessions or information to be used in criminal proceedings. The Committee is further concerned at reports that suggest that torture and ill-treatment perpetrated by state actors, both the military and the police, have continued in many parts of the country after the conflict ended in May 2009 and is still occurring in 2011. In 2011 the UNCAT issued a scathing statement about Sri Lanka in which it called for an end to the practice.”

However, the Operational Guidance Note in section 5 on “Returns” makes no mention of Tamil ethnicity as a factor to consider.

The United Kingdom is a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which states in article 3 that no state “shall expel, return (‘refouler’) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.” In making such determinations, the authorities “shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.”

Human Rights Watch called for the Sri Lankan government to stop targeting Tamil returnees and end the use of torture and other ill-treatment in custody. Sri Lanka is also a party to the Convention against Torture.

“The Sri Lankan government has a long record of torture and mistreatment that has not ended with the end of the long war with the LTTE,” Adams said. “The government needs to take serious and public measures to end these cruel practices.”

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  • 0

    Hello Moderators of Colombo Telegraph. Sorry for the double post.

    Might I recommend you install the following.


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    • 0

      Hi Moderator,

      Kindly remove the above comment from “Nihal P” that has nothing to do with the article. Thanks.

      • 0

        Isn’t Nihal precious! Such a sweetie.

      • 0

        I guess the Unterklokommandant’s head occasionally slips out of the klo. He’s clearly worried he might see an opposing view :D

    • 0

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      • 0

        WHAT ???!!!!

  • 0

    ‘ Rights Watch called for the Sri Lankan government to stop targeting Tamil returnees and end t Sri Lanka is also a party to the Convention against Torture
    If a country which has signed the UN,s Convention against Torture acts openly against this Convention, Hasn’t the International Community constrained to do something,otherwise are you not making a mockery of the Convention.Give some teeth to the UN or else scrap it altogether as it serves no purpose.

    • 0

      It is ironic that one of the loudest voices in the campaign to get Sri Lanka punished for war crimes is Siobhan McDonagh MP. She had voted very strongly for a stricter asylum system. On 16 June 2011, she made representations against “the deportation by the UK Border Agency of my constituent Mr Jenach Gopinath back to Sri Lanka, whose Government are suspected of war crimes against Tamils, including the killing of 40,000 Tamil citizens. Later today, a plane chartered by the UKBA will deport 40 asylum-seeking Commonwealth citizens of Tamil ethnicity back to Sri Lanka”.

      She supports deportation unless it affects her vote.

  • 0

    The Conservative Government does npot depend on the Sri Lankan Tamil votes,,, the Labour Party did. With a problem arising from very high unemployment and given that the British people are npow aware of the crminal element among the refugees deportations will not stop just because the little Tamil girl has a placard that you can use for your story.
    The US and UK have used evidence elicited by torture so the chances of them turning around and saying” We ask you not to do what we do but do as we say”… can be challenged. If retrned asylum seekers have been involved in crime there is no reason as to why they should be treated with kid gloves just because the Colombo Telegraph funded by the GTF and the BTF say so.david Cameron does not give a needle for Human Rights. There is a Jordanian facing torture but he want to deport him only the EU will not let the UK do that. The EU with all its shouting and wailing about HR has not stopped asylum seekers from being deported to Sri Lanka… be reminded.

  • 0

    I guess this is one of the reasons that Tamil asylum seekers in UK didn’t want this war to end. I have been working with NGOs on several projects in Vanni and Bati in the last two years and have a good knowledge of what is going on in those parts. I seriousy doubt some of the claims in this article.

  • 0

    The author could at least get the UK minister’s name correct. My old buddy is called “Alistair” not “Alexander” Burt.



    Tania should write an article about her experiences.

  • 0

    Never in the history of human conflict have so many been mislead & fooled and and continue to be fooled and mislead, as the Tamil Tiger Diaspora have done with much of the western world, regarding the realities & true happenings in Sri Lanka..The claims in this article about the happenings to deported Sri Lankans are a part of these deceptions.

    It was Adolf Hitlers propaganda minister Joseph Goebells who stated that any big lie, if repeated frequently enough will eventually be believed.

    The Tigers and their Diaspora have & still do follow this teaching to the letter and more.

    The world at large should recall the numerous claims that the Tigers have made over the years that have been exposed to be entirely baseless , when considering the veracity of any of their new claims. Starting off with claims of being liberators and freedom fighters, they ended up being proscribed as terrorists by virtually all of western democracies. They claimed that the civilians they hostaged at the end of the war were with the tigers of their own accord. Without exception , once rescued by the Sri Lankan forces,they all denied this Tiger claim over and over again.

    Now the Tamils awaiting deportation to Sri Lanka claim that those ho have gone before them have been badly treated, & therefore appeal that they be not deported, so than enjoy the privileges of refugees in the west.

    Hope springs eternal in the human breast, (in this case Tiger breast) that some people could be fooled all the time!

  • 0

    Dear Rajapakse,
    Tigers are eliminated from sri lanka. They have been replaced by the Rajapakse Regime. Read reports of Human Rights groups on the web.
    Why are you beating a ‘dead horse’?

  • 0

    Has Chula Rajapakse ever met a victim of torture from Sri Lanka? If he never has, he should meet one from the Sinhala south- you could find plenty who are frequently subjected to inhuman treatment by the police in many stations. Listen to their stories and then assess this report.

    One thing he needs to learn is that an organisation like Human Rights Watch would not produce such a report urging the UK government to take action without interviewing actual victims and verifying their accounts. Modern forensic science has many ways to verify complaints and interpret them testing the timing of the incident etc. UK has many organisations that regularly carry out such functions to assess the credibility of torture claims. To even think that UK is going to act on mere reports is only ignorance… Of course first you need to know that you don’t know… one needs to take care not to incite further ill feelings at a time actually all should get together to help these helpless people…it is only helpful to peace if one admits the wrong doing and help the victims, without living in denial.

  • 0

    Modern forensic science is ignored in sri lanka. After shooting incidents, those who discharged firearms are not detected by a simple test. Guns and bullet casings are not collected from crime scenes in a manner to preserve fingerprints.Crime scenes are not photographed.
    During the recent shootout when Premachandra and three others died and Duminda Silva was injured, Premachandra had 46 bullet wounds, the three others probably had six at least, and Duminda Silva had three.
    But the police had produced a single gun to the magistrate after 3 weeks of handling same, for ‘permission’ to detect fingerprints on it.
    This farce appears to be accepted by the judge. Postmortem reports are kept a secret, and lawyers appear not to request it, to establish the manner and cause of death.
    Victims of torture are examined by medical offcers in the presence of police who insist on it, and insist on their version of events be recorded – not that of the victim.
    In most cases of crime, judicial inquiries are not held.
    Sri Lanka is a military cum police state.

  • 0

    This is a very good decision & this what they wanted, not to come back & stay in the UK by hook or crook. Why not UK govt give a piece of land to them to settle down in the UK. Don’t u think this Human rights.

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