The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Court stops UK from returning Tamil to Sri Lanka

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that an ethnic Tamil man denied asylum in Britain could not be sent back to his native Sri Lanka because he would be at risk of torture there.

The ruling could have implications for hundreds of other Tamils trying to avoid expulsion from Britain to Sri Lanka.

Thursday's ruling centred on a 33-year-old man who sought asylum in Britain in 1999 citing fears of ill-treatment by the Sri Lankan authorities, who had detained him six times in seven years on suspicion of involvement with the rebel Tamil Tigers.

The man had been released without charge every time. He was ill-treated during at least one of his detentions and his legs bear scars from being beaten with batons.

The man also feared the Tigers because his father had done some work for the Sri Lankan army, which has been fighting the rebels for 25 years in a civil war estimated to have killed 70,000 people.

The European Court of Human Rights said it had received an increasing number of petitions from ethnic Tamils facing expulsion to Sri Lanka from Britain and it had asked British authorities to suspend 342 procedures pending rulings.

Fighting has intensified in the north of Sri Lanka after the army, which has vowed to finish off the Tigers this year, drove the rebels out of their eastern enclave in 2007.

The Tigers, fighting for an independent state for the ethnic Tamil minority in predominantly Sinhalese Sri Lanka, regularly retaliate with suicide attacks.

In its ruling, the European Court of Human Rights "took note of the current climate of general violence in Sri Lanka", according to a summary posted on the court's website.

The court agreed with British authorities that the deterioration in security did not create a general risk for all Tamils returning to Sri Lanka, but it found there were specific risk factors in the case they were examining.

The court said the man's father had signed a document to ensure his release from detention and therefore it was possible authorities would have records of him and would detain him on arrival in Colombo.

"The court considered that where there was a sufficient risk that an applicant would be detained ... the presence of scarring, with all the significance that the Sri Lankan authorities were then likely to attach to it, had to be taken as greatly increasing the cumulative risk of ill-treatment."

Source: Reuters

I am still the boss - Tillakaratne

Hashan Tillakaratne maintains he is still the manager of the Sri Lankan cricket team despite reports he was removed a day after he took over.

A report in the Daily Mirror said sports minister Gamini Lokuge refused to endorse Tillakaratne's appointment for political reasons. Tillakeratne is a member of the opposition United National Party.

But the left-handed batsman told reporters after the team's morning practice at the Sinhalese Sports Club: "As far as I am concerned, I am still the team's manager and there has been no letter to suggest that I am not."

He added: "I offered my services and it was accepted."

The former opening batsman replaced Shriyan Samararatne, who's term ended after the Asia Cup.

Tillakaratne's appointment has been ratified by Sri Lanka Cricket's Interim Committee, the governing body of the sport in the country.

However, his appointment needs to be ratified by the sports ministry, a step which is still pending.

Tillakaratne continues as manager until then.

Source: PA

Sri Lanka gets tough on UN, aid visas

Sri Lanka's government on Thursday unveiled new restrictions on how long United Nations and other foreign aid staff are allowed to work on the war-torn island.

The new regulations come amid a backdrop of mounting tensions between the government and the United Nations and key member states, who have been highly critical over how the war against Tamil Tiger rebels is being conducted.

Under the new Sri Lankan foreign ministry rules, foreign nationals will not be allowed to stay more than four years in a single place, while experts and advisers will only be allowed into the country for a year.

Previously rules regarding foreigners were flexible and allowed for people to stay in the country for long periods of time.

UN and other aid agencies will also not be allowed to create new positions without prior approval from Colombo.

The ministry said the rules where designed to "consolidate the linkages between the UN and other international organisations with ministries dealing with the relevant sectors of activities."

Sri Lanka's government, which pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered ceasefire with Tamil Tigers in January, has seen its relationship with the UN and other key donors worsen over the past year.

The UN's human rights body has asked it be allowed to set up a monitoring office on the island amid reports of widespread disappearances, abductions and murders linked to the conflict.

Colombo has rejected the demand and accused Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, of "obvious bias" after she hinted Sri Lankan officials were exposing themselves to the risk of war crimes charges.

The hawkish government has also publicly accused its foreign critics -- mainly Western nations -- of being "pro-terrorist", and argues that a number of international organisations and NGOs in Sri Lanka have been infiltrated by rebels.

Relations further soured when UN member countries rejected Sri Lanka's re-election bid to the world body's Human Rights Council in May.

Government troops were also implicated by French aid group Action Against Hunger for massacring 17 of its workers in 2005. Sri Lanka has denied the charge, but the perpetrators have not been brought to justice.

Last November, the government was forced to recall 111 soldiers on a UN peace keeping mission to Haiti over allegations that some of the troops sexually abused local girls.

International media rights groups have repeatedly pulled Colombo up for not doing enough to protect journalists from being verbally abused by senior government officials, abducted, harassed and killed. Rights groups say at least 12 media workers have been killed in Sri Lanka since 2005.

The government has also brushed off threats of foreign aid cuts due to the worsening conflict and human rights situation, and turned to countries like Iran and China for aid this year.

Sri Lanka's powerful defence secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, has often accused expatriates of being "too soft" on Tiger rebels and taking up posts on the tropical island to "simply have a paid holiday".

The Tamil Tigers are fighting for a separate state in the north and east of the ethnic Sinhalese-majority island.

A UN official, who asked not to be named, said the new visa rules made it difficult for expatriates to seek extensions.

However, the foreign ministry quoted UN resident co-ordinator for Sri Lanka Neil Buhne as saying that the UN agreed to cooperate with the new rules.

Source: AFP