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'Not every Tiger is necessarily guilty of crimes' - Amnesty International

Sri Lankan asylum-seekers deserve hearings

By James McDonald

From Letters to the Editor @ The Washington Post ~ Monday, August 9, 2010; A12

The Aug. 4 news story "U.S. monitoring Sri Lankans aiming for North America, asylum" quoted a former Pentagon official who advocated summarily sending approximately 200 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum-seekers, now on a boat heading toward North America, back to Sri Lanka. This is a dangerous, ill-considered position.

Further, the asylum-seekers could be at risk of harm if returned to Sri Lanka. Thousands of Tamils suspected of being members of the Tigers are being detained there without charge; some have reportedly been tortured or have died in custody.

People seeking asylum have the right to a fair hearing on the merits of their individual cases. Treating them all like war criminals without giving them hearings is simply unjust.

(James McDonald, Chicago - The writer is Sri Lanka country specialist at Amnesty International U.S.A.)

14 Comments

EVERY SINGLE TAMIL TIGER IS GUILTY OF TREASON AND TERRORISM.

By the very Fact that they are MEMBERS of the LTTE in itself constitutes a CRIMINAL ACT. I hope this is clear enough for AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL to Understand.

Posted by: Devinda Fernando | August 9, 2010 11:03 PM

i fully agree with mr,j.m.,but this should be for all asylum seekers.sometimes i wonder why the so called tigers prefer to go to a developed country.why not tamil nadu in india where they could live as free people,with their own tamil brothers and sisters without any form of discrimination.is india a dangerous country for liberation fighters mr. j.m..if so why. ranjit de mel berlin/COLOMBO

Posted by: ranjit de mel | August 9, 2010 11:51 PM

The writer has hit the nail right on the head, the cursed war was finished more than 15 months ago but the Sri Lankan government hallucinates that there are two legged tigers lurking behind every bush in Sri Lanka.

Tamils, right throughout the island nation are still being arrested and detained day after day.

Canada, being a compassionate country will not return any of these and other arrivals, the present prime minister of Australia has publicly said so but if her government loses the elections on the 21st August of this year things may change.

Sri Lanka, by it's actions has only proven to the world that they are a racist regime walking over all the minority communities.

Even in the field of sports, in the game of cricket two members of the team who were born into the Muslim community had to adopt Sinhalese names to cement their places in the team.

How sad but it is a fact. a j.

Posted by: anthony jones | August 10, 2010 01:13 AM

Thanks Mr McDonald.

Please pressure your Government to keep the whole lot.

Also you should take many more if you are really concerned about their welfare in Srilanka.

But please don't let them get on these unseaworthy junkets.

Send a few Ships from the US with proper facilities.

I am sure the Srilankan Government will be more than happy to arrange their departure in an expedient manner.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 10, 2010 03:23 AM

Americans rarely learn from history. They sent back a boat load of Jewish refugees, back to Germany, to be massacred by Adolf Hitler, for which, there is no apology till now. The curse of this still haunts the people of America.

Now, it is Tamils of Tamil Eelam(TE). They were not even going to America but South America.

Why does America hypocritically say it stands for freedom, liberty and justice of the people? It appears that the "tap root of freedom, liberty and justice - America-" started to decay in 1940's and is rotten now !!!

The Americans should now pull down the Liberty Statue and say that they are for totalitarian and criminal states.

What a people sow, they will reap. Americans are no exception to this spiritual truth.

It is high time they remove

Posted by: Justin | August 10, 2010 06:35 AM

I fully agree with comment from a.j.

The suggestion to send back all occupants in the ship is not justifiable.
All of them cannot be terrorists. It must be mentioned that some of them were forced to join the LTTE, and they were unwilling "fighters". Why not wait till they land and screen them individually?

The SL govt. is still searching for LTTE tigers, monthly extending the state of emergency, now 17 months after "Mission Accomplished". There is no end to Registering of Tamils, Search operations, Abductions in white van etc,,
One should not believe the lies of the Govt. propaganda that "those on the ship are tigers". It is afraid that when these men/women/children in the ship are safe in a foreign land, some od them may called to testify against war crimes.
Not every media is honest and there are some on the pay of the culprits.

Anybody can suggest without knowing facts, and not seeing the real situation.
Independent jounalists, organisations were not allowed in the country,before the war and not even now when the country is declared "peaceful".

justice

Posted by: Justice | August 10, 2010 11:22 AM

Dear Mr.Devinda Fernando, can I say every single Sinhalese is guily of all the burnings, rapings and killingsn of innocent Tamils during the riots in 1958 to 1983. No, No, No only a handful of Sinhalese with the help and support of some politician did all the atrocities during the dark days. Same way not all the Tamils are Terrorist only a handful. Therefore, dont consider all the peple who were and now living in the North and East of the country as Tigers or LTTE.

Posted by: Martin Thomas | August 10, 2010 04:47 PM

Branding all Tamil asylum seekers as Tigers (unless proven) is wrong. These are ordinary people trying to escape a repressive country because of its racist agenda and a government which do not give even basic security to the minorities.

Posted by: mano | August 10, 2010 11:43 PM

Sorry but if you were a proven member of a terrorist organization that actively participated in destroying the economy of my Country and killing civilians indiscriminately...You are GUILTY of a crime.

Your degree of involvement will determine how you should be punished but investigations must take place into the conduct of every such person.

You may turn the argument around and say that the Government also indiscriminately killed civilians (in the latter stages of the war) but that remains to be proved and yes all those who participated in that may be criminals too, if it did happen.

Posted by: Ravana | August 11, 2010 04:55 AM


Not all asylum seekers are Tigers, nor terrorists.
There were many who were forcibly recruited to fight (unwillingly)for a cause.

These persons are trying to flee the country for safety, since all Tamils are branded as Terrorists, and every Tamil home, whether in the North/East or even Colombo are regularly searched and are required to "Register with the police.
[This requirement however does not apply for other communities].

Moreover, after more than a year from ending the war,there is still abduction by white van, rape and killing going on regularly. State of Emergency [PTA} is extended every month with some excuse. [Those in power can always cook up excuses].
Further there are still many displaced people (IDP's) who were prevented from returnig to their original habitats, and many are not allowed to earn a living- agriculture. fishing etc. Because their lands are taken over for building cantonments for the military.
These asylum seekers are all branded as Terrorists, to prevent them given refuge
as some of them are potential witnesses to war crimes.

Justice.

Posted by: Justice | August 11, 2010 12:13 PM

Toronto Star of 12 Aug.2010 ) Extract)

It is certainly possible that there may be former members of the Tamil Tigers on the ship. IF THE SRI LANKAN GOVERMENT IS TO BE BELIEVED, THE BOAT IS FULL OF TAMIL TIGERS.HOWEVER ANYTHING THAT EMANATES FROM THE SRI LANKAN GOVERNMENT MUST BE VIEWED WITH GREAT CAUTION. Its dismal human rights record led UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a panel of experts on Wednesday to advise him on accountability issues relating to alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka that ended last year.

Posted by: Ravi | August 12, 2010 11:48 AM

Martin Thomas,

Davinda DID NOT say every Tamil is a terrorist or a tiger. Please re-read Davinda's comments before jumping to respond. However, every Tamil tiger is a terrorist as designated by many governments.

Mano,

If these asylum seekers are so desperate, they would have ended in Tamil Nadu. Not in Thailand enroute to Australia or now in Canada. This is pure exploitation of propaganda (including that of Amnesty International) to seek economic prosperity in affluent countries. Canada will lear it's lesson in the not too distant future.

Posted by: Hela | August 12, 2010 11:07 PM

*** Dear Mr.Devinda Fernando, can I say every single Sinhalese is guily of all the burnings, ***

Dear Martin Thomas,

I am sorry if the ENGLISH LANGUAGE is difficult for you to comprehend... I suggest you get more practise, read a book or three, watch some films?

My initial comment stated that EVERY TIGER (not TAMIL) was guilty of WAR CRIMES.... This you will find is inherently true as The LTTE is an INTERNATIONALLY BANNED AND RECOGNIZED TERRORIST GROUP. Membership In itself is a WAR CRIME as you are part of the ORGANIZATION that uses INTERNATIONALLY BANNED METHODS of Combat. Now you seem to try to ERRONEOUSLY equate my statement with TAMILS and SINHALESE... Ofcourse I do not hold all Sinhalese responsible for those few thousands Killed or hurt back in Isolated incidents of 1958 and 1983...just as I don't hold ALL TAMILS responsible for the SLAUGHTER, DISPLACEMENT, and MAIMING of HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of SINHALESE and MUSLIMS over a 25 YEAR PERIOD during the TERROR REIGN of the TAMIL TERRORISTS aka the L.T.T.E....

Am I making sense? Shall I try to write in words of one syllable for you? Let me know if you are having difficulty understanding my logic. Take ASPIRIN for HEADACHES, MIDOL for PMS.

Posted by: Devinda Fernando | August 13, 2010 12:24 AM

People should learn to comment on the article in question not express comments on other people's comments. This is what freedom of expression is all about. Please note this.

Posted by: Mano | August 15, 2010 01:04 AM

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