SITUATION OF THE DEPORTEES IN SRILANKA
On 16th March 2000 twenty Sri Lankan asylum seekers deported from Germany arrived in Sri Lanka and of the 20 deportees 19 were Tamils. On arrival the CID arrested them and after interrogation they were produced at the Negombo Magistrate’s Court. 18 of the deportees were released immediately and the Negombo Magistrate remanded two. The two remanded were (Vythilingam Suthakaran and Subramanium Deiventhiran) subsequently released. This has caused a great panic among the Sri Lankan Tamils, who migrated to Germany and have sought asylum. This decision to deport Tamil asylum seekers is presumably due to the false propaganda made by the Government of Sri Lanka through its foreign missions that there is peace and stability in this Country.
This report is prepared to highlight the actual state of affairs that prevails in Sri Lanka and the problem faced by the deportees in Sri Lanka. The information contained in this report is based on actual facts and information obtained by us. We categorically state that the violation of Human Rights of Tamils by the Sri Lankan Government is the major cause for the mass exodus of Tamils seeking asylum in the Western countries.
The Government of Sri Lanka is engaged in a war for well over 16 years with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. This war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 people, which include members of the security personnel, members of LTTE and large number of innocent civilians. This has resulted in the destruction of properties too.
A large number of Tamils have been displaced from their homes and are living in places, such as Colombo, Vavuniya, Mannar and Trincomalee. A large number of Tamils displaced from the North and East have sought shelter with their relatives and friends in Colombo and many are living in lodging houses run by private individuals.
Tamils in predominantly Sinhalese areas, are mostly displaced people, from the places of conflict. Displaced persons are far from being free and they perceive themselves refugees and not as common citizens. A sense of insecurity hangs on the heads of Tamils and fear stalks them in an unfriendly and most often hostile environment.
The Tamils who were displaced from their home towns have no other alternative, but to migrate to countries such as Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Norway, Holland, etc. or if necessary even to India. Relatives of Tamils provide the financial assistance or these persons dispose their properties, pawn jewelry etc and pay agents to take them safely to Western countries.
Once they enter these countries they claim political asylum. It is undoubtedly true that the mass exodus of Tamils to other countries is due to persecution and harassment by the Sri Lankan Government. If peace is restored in Sri Lanka, Tamils are unlikely to attempt to migrate to these countries, in fact most of those who migrated will even return to their native land.
The Government has given wide discretionary power to Police officers and other members of the security forces under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the Emergency Regulations (ERs) for the arrest and detention of Tamils. According to the information available over one thousand Tamils have been arrested and are detained indefinitely in various prisons and police stations. Almost every Tamil arrested is assaulted, tortured and a self-incriminating statement is extracted from him/her, which unfortunately made as admissible evidence under the PTA.
The security forces conduct mass arrests and detentions of young Tamils, both male and female. Major sweeps of arrests do occur in Colombo, Vavuniya, Jaffna peninsula and in the Eastern Province. Hundreds of Tamils at a time are picked up during search operation carried out by security forces. Tamils claim that the arrests were a form of harassment directed against them. They feel unsecure to stay in Sri Lanka quite apart from this, the displaced Tamils find it extremely difficult to get employment in the state or private sector.
Tamils from the North and East if arrested (either at check point or house etc.) must be able to demonstrate a valid reason for seeking residence in the city. The most accepted form of proof is a statement from an employer (office identity card) or prove that he is engaged in studies (student identity card). Apart from this he should be in possession of the National Identity card and police registration certificate.
Problems faced by Returnees
Once returnees reach Colombo itself, they face major problems. First, they are constantly at risk of re-arrested at checkpoints. Most of them, in our experience, lack proper documentation (passports and ID cards). Immigration Officers at Katunayake Airport normally retain any travel documents issued by a Sri Lankan High Commission/Embassy abroad to assist the returnee in his/her return to Colombo Airport and issue a chit to the returnee. So, by the time the returnee is back in Colombo itself, if he has no passport or ID card, he is vulnerable, as a Tamil, to be arrested on suspicion of being LTTE.
Police and Security Forces had made it obligatory for all Sri Lankans to have their National Identity Cards (NIC) always in their possession and in case they happened to belong to the Tamil Community, then they are also expected to carry with them a copy of what is called a "Police Report." This Report is a must to all Tamils living in areas other than the Northern and Eastern Provinces in Sri Lanka and is a vital piece of document to all Tamils living in and around Colombo. Members of the Tamil Community have been arrested and taken into custody for their failure to produce these two documents at the time of security checks. It is to be noted that the so called Police Registration is not obligatory.
A deportee was arrested by the police when he went to register his name with them.
We give below his case.
29th September 1998
Our Ref: FD/GR/98/69
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
I write to state that Mr. Ampalavani Kuruparan of Saravanai East, Velanai, Jaffna is known to me.
He went to Germany on 03/11/1991 in order to seek asylum there. On 02.09.1998 he was deported from Germany. On his arrival he was arrested by the C.I.D at the Airport. On 04.09.1998 he was released on bail by the Magistrate Court of Negombo. Later on 10.09.1998 he was released after the payment of Rs. 10,000/- as fine.
Again on 17.09.1998 when he went with his brother Mr. Nalliah Srimayan to the Kollupitiya Police for registering his name with the Police, he was arrested along with his brother and now they are remanded in Colombo Magazine Prison. His case is pending in the Fort Magistrate Court, Colombo. His case will be called again on 01.10.1998.
Ms. Maheswary Velautham
The highest form of risk a Tamil encounter is the high probability of him being arrested on a vague form of suspicion, which is not legal. The Legislation clearly states that the person arresting should know and he should inform the suspect the reason for his arrest. This principle is rarely or not followed at all. Tamil Deportees could be arrested and detained under three forms of legislation.
1. Arrest & Detention under the Immigration & Emigration Act
2. Arrest & Detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
3. Arrest & Detention under the Emergency Regulations
Immigrants and Emigrants Act
We also wish to point out that Sri Lankan deportees from abroad, if they are Tamils, are often viewed with suspicion by the Airport authorities at Katunayake. The Airport officers always single them out for thorough scrutiny. For Tamil passengers the Immigration formalities are not a matter of few minutes but hours and days at times. There are many reported cases of harassment quite apart from the arresting of the deportees.
On arrival they are arrested at the airport and taken for interrogation by the CID and there after generally produced at the Negombo Magistrate’s Court under the Amended Immigrants and Emigrants Act. Here these suspects are more often imposed with a fine of Rs. 100,000/- and one year rigorous imprisonment.
The Amendment Act No.42 of 1998 was introduced under pressure from Governments of Western countries where Tamils seek asylum. This Act was amended in July 1998. It was expected to prevent the smuggling of illegal immigrants and reduce the number of Tamil asylum seekers who end up in Europe.
By this amendment the fine imposed on a deportee was increased from Rs. 50,000.00 to Rs. 200,000.00 and a prison sentence from one year to five years. The burden is on the suspect to prove that he did not leave Sri Lanka illegally.
The introduction of the amendment to the Immigrants and Emigrants Act has led to a heightening of the checks of deported asylum seekers at the airport. Asylum seekers deported back to Sri Lanka are automatically considered suspects and are arrested upon their arrival at the Airport.
In terms of this amendment people who left the country illegally in the past will be under suspicion and arrested upon their arrival on Sri Lanka. If a deported asylum seeker does not possess a valid passport upon arrival at the Airport and is travelling as pointed out earlier with an Emergency certificate, this will automatically lead to the suspicion of an illegal departure.
We give below a case where a deportee had to serve a full year jail term.
"One Thambu Mahendran who was deported from Germany was charged and sentenced under the New Immigrants and Emigrants (Amendment) Act of 42 of 1998 in Negombo in Case No. 42073. He was remanded on 18/01/99 and convicted on 19/02/99. He was imprisoned for one year from the said date, that is 19/02/99. He is now serving the sentence in Welikade Prison.
He is sentenced under S.45 (1) and 45 (1) F of the Immigrants and Emigrants Act.
We give below the relevant section for your information.
(02). Section 45 of the Immigrants and Emigrants Act (hereinafter referred to as the "principal enactment") as last amended by act, No. 16 of 1993 is hereby further amended as follows:-
1. by the substitution, in subsection (1) of that section, for all the words from "shall on conviction" to the end of that section, of the words "shall on conviction be liable, in the case of an offence under paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) or paragraph (c) or paragraph (d) or paragraph (e) paragraph (f) or paragraph (g), to imprisonment of either description for a term not less than one year and not more than five years and to a fine not less than fifty thousand rupees and not more than two hundred thousand rupees, and in the case of an offence under paragraph (h) or paragraph (i) or paragraph (j) or paragraph (k) or paragraph (l) or paragraph (m) or paragraph or (n) or paragraph (o), to imprisonment of either description for a term not less than six months and not more than five years and to a fine not less than fifty thousand rupees and not more than two hundred thousand rupees".;
2. by the addition at the end of that section, of the following subsection:-
(6) Notwithstanding anything in the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, No. 15 of 1979-
(a) the provisions of section 303 of that Act shall not apply in the case of a person who is convicted;
(b) the provisions of section 306 of that Act shall not apply in the case of a person who pleads or is found guilty,
by or before any court, of any offence under subsection (1) or subsection (2)".
(Section 303 is about Suspended Sentence of imprisonment- Where an offence is punishable with a prescribed period of sentence that sentence could be suspended until he commits another offence with a imprisonment.)
(Section 306 is about Conditional Discharge of offenders- Any person convicted could be granted a conditional discharge taking into consideration his character, antecedents, age, health or mental condition of the offender and conditioning him to be of good behaviour.
The Immigration & Emigration Act specifically states that when someone is arrested under this Act bail cannot be granted, but nowadays the Magistrate of Negombo generally grants bail, may be because of pressure exerted through Mr. Hon. Douglas Devananda M.P. Secretary General of E.P.D.P.
We give below our letters dated 19th March 1999, 27th March 1999 and 28th April 1999.
28th April 1999
The Hon. Douglas Devananda M.P,
Secretary General E.P.D.P,
121 Park Road,
We forward herewith an appeal to you of the parents of the children who are now serving jail terms at Negombo and Welikade Prisons.
These children left Sri Lanka in order to seek asylum in Foreign Countries. When they left the country they went in their original passport and visa. They did not go on forged Documents.
Since they could not succeed in seeking asylum in foreign countries they were deported.
On their arrival they were arrested and charged under the new Immigrant Act 42 of 1998. They are now serving sentences in prisons.
These people have neither violated any laws of this country nor committed any crime in this country. They can not be charged and punished under the new Act. I shall be thankful if you could take this matter up with Hon. Attorney General, and help these people.
Ms. Maheswary Velautham
27th March 1999
Hon. Douglas Devananda M.P
Secretary General of E.P.D.P
121, Park Rd,
We forward herewith an appeal to you of the parents of the children who are now serving jail terms at Negombo and Welikada prisons. The judge imposing the jail terms and fines observed that the court was bound by the amendment and it was mandatory under the law. Though the Amended Immigration Act state it is mandatory still the court can suspend this jail sentence under S 303 of Criminal Procedure Code.
You are well aware that over 500,000 Sri Lankan Tamils have fled the Island due to the Ethnic strife in this country. We are of the view that considering the circumstances under which they being Tamils attempted to flee the country should receive anxious and very sympathetic considerations.
In such situation the imposition of jail term under the new amendment act is harsh inhuman and unconscionable. This Act therefore must be repealed.
We shall be thankful if you could discuss this matter with the Attorney General and help these people.
Ms. Maheswary Velautham
19th March 1999
Hon. Douglas Devananda M.P
Secretary General of E.P.D.P
121, Park Rd,
We wish to bring to your kind notice the plight of our children who are undergoing jail terms in Welikada and Negombo prisons. Their names and other details are attached herewith.
All of them were arrested while they attempted to leave the country at the Airport. Since all young Tamils feel insecure in this country, they have been migrating to foreign countries including India.
All these years when a person is arrested over some irregularities at the Airport they were fined Rs. 10,000 at Negombo courts and released. But under the new amended Immigration and Emigration Act no 42 of 1998 court shall impose jail term not less than one year and not more than five years and to a fine not less than fifty thousand rupees and not more than two hundred thousand rupees.
The Negombo Magistrate court had started implementing this new amendment and sentencing them to one-year rigorous imprisonment and fines. They are undergoing untold hardship in these jails.
We shall be thankful if you could take steps to suspend or review the sentences imposed on them.
Ms. Maheswary Velautham
A large number of Tamils deported by the Western countries have been charged under this law.
Youth Madivannan who had lived in Germany for the last fifteen years when deported had been arrested at the Katunayake Airport on 09/10/99 by the Criminal Investigation Department (C.I.D.) and had been detained in the Negombo Prison.
He was produced before the Negombo Magistrate Mr. Saman Wickramarachi by the C.I.D. Senior lawyer Mr. S. Thavarasa who appeared for Mr. Madivannan said that his client who had been arrested on suspicion had gone to Germany in 1984 and had lived there for the last 15 years. When he was suddenly deported to Sri Lanka from Germany he was arrested at Katunayake Airport. This incident had brought him severe mental depression and the lawyer requested that he be subjected to Medical Examination.
Mr. Kandiah Madivannan (36 yrs) of Kuppilan, Elalai had been arrested under the Immigration and Emigration Law on charges of possessing fraudulent travel documents.
Hon. Magistrate Mr. Saman Wickramarachi ordered the suspect to be produced for a Medical Examination and postponed the case to the 16th November 1999.
26th February 1999.
Dear Mrs. Louis A.E. Huybens,
Deporting Sri Lanka Tamil refugees back to Sri lanka results in serious consequences to the refugee.
The latest case is that of Veeriah Pathmanathan deported from Holland on 14/02/99. He was arrested at Colombo Airport Sri Lanka on 16/02/1999 at 6A.M He was then handed over to the Immigration authorities who questioned him and was later handed over to the C.I.D at the Airport itself. The C.I.D questioned him and later kept him in custody. The deportee was produced before the Magistrate at Wattala Magistrate’s Court and ordered bail in Rs. 50,000 in bond and ordered to appear at Magistrate Court Negombo on 23/03/99. He is unable to move freely and is afraid of his future as he does not know what could happen to him.
He tried to contact the Holland Embassy but of no avail. I give below the statement of the deportee.
Ms. Maheswary Velautham
I went to Holland in 1995. Prior to this I was farming at Vavunikulam - Married with 3 children. They are still at Vavunikulam. They are not aware that I am here now.
I went in 1995 through an Agent, first went to Moscow and from there I reached Holland on 28/11/95. I spent about Rs 4 lakhs to go. When I landed at the Airport in Holland I surrendered to Police saying that I am a refugee and had come because of the ethnic Violence in Sri Lanka. They registered and kept at a refugee camp there.
Then I was sent to another camp and I was there till I was deported. My case was taken up, argued and finally rejected on 10/02/99. When I went to stamp as usual I was taken away- Kept for 4 days in prison and on 14/02/99 flown to Frankfurt on 15/02/99, from Frankfurt to Colombo arrived on 16/02/99 at about 6 A.M.
After all the passengers left myself and another girl who was also deported were allowed to go and taken to the Immigration at Kattunayaka Airport. After that I was taken to the C.I.D at the Airport, after inquiry I was produced taken to Ja Ela Court on 17/02/99 and bailed out. I was asked to appear in Negombo Courts on 23/03/99.
In Holland the police told me that I could contact the Netherlands Embassy if I am in trouble. The lodge owner is refusing to give the Police Report as he was directed by the Police of Kotahena not to hand over the police registration to the in mates of the lodge. I am scared to go out without the police report. Today I came to the Forum for the Human Dignity with an elderly person to complain about this.
Veeriah Pathmanathan’s wife and child later visited him and the Kotahena Police refused to register his wife’s and child’s names. Later Veeriah Pathmanathan was arrested on the 8th of April,1999 and was released the following day. Now we understand that he has gone back with his wife and child to the Vanni area.
On 27th February 2000, he was deported to Sri Lanka and arrived at the Katunayake Air port on 28th February,2000 at about 6.30 a.m. He was arrested by the CID, interrogated and assaulted. Thereafter, he was produced before the Negombo Magistrate who remanded him for a period of two weeks. On 14th March he was again produced before the Negombo Magistrate and was released on bail in case number B/643/2000. His case is coming up on 6th of June on 2000. Our Attorney-at-Law will appear on his behalf on that day.
We attach herewith the names of persons (including young boys and girls) who were sentenced. (Annex document marked as - A)
It is highly probable that once a Tamil deportee is released from the custody at the Airport he could be rearrested on suspicion of having connection with the subversives. The probabilities of Torture are very high when one is arrested under this Act. There is no provision for bail when a person is arrested under this legislation. This is another form of harassment. Orders under Section 303 & 306 of the Criminal Procedure Code, are excluded from this Act too. Thambirajah Kamalathasan’s and MoothathambiVanitha’s cases which are described below in detail are some of the cases under this form of arrest & detention.
There is, therefore, huge pressure on Tamils in the North & East to give information to the Army. Tamil laymen are often stopped at checkpoints, hammered/beaten and made to confess that he/she knows some LTTE person and has not reported this or that he has contributed money to or done some work (e.g. digging a bunker) for the LTTE. However the majority are accused of failure to disclose information. Any Tamil from the North or East can be charged under this clause, because all Tamils in the North & East were under LTTE control for some time (up to 1995) so, in effect, any of them can be charged under the PTA if arrested.
We have over 500 clients charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Almost all involve torture/ill-treatment of the Tamil detainee. As long as they are being held according to law, the Anti Harassment Committee will not help, though eventually we can take up the question of the length of time for which someone has been held without charge. The Attorney General’s Department does not have enough manpower to expedite cases, which is why so many Tamils are held under the PTA for years without being charged/indicted. We find writing to the Attorney General to expedite these cases is of no use.
All this would pose a major risk to a returned asylum seeker from the North. In his case the risk is increased by the fact that the Army might well find out that he is a returned asylum seeker. He has to provide details to obtain the National Identity Card. If he has significant money, they will deduce that that he must have been helping the Tigers financially abroad. Also, neighbours might give the Army information about his/his family’s past LTTE involvement. They might do this either to protect themselves from getting into trouble under Section 5 of the PTA (for not passing on information) or to settle some old score.
This legislation is also brought to arrest and detain a person who seems to be a suspicious character. The only difference between the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations are that in ER bail could be obtained if the Attorney General does not object. If the Police decide that a Tamil is not in possession of a valid ID, he will be taken into custody and is then exposed to the risk of prolonged detention, during which there may well be tortured. Sundaram Gnanachandran’s case is one such instance.
One Sundaran Gnanachandaran of Thirunelvely, Jaffna a deportee from Germany is now remanded in Colombo Remand Prison.
Ten years ago he went to Switzerland as a refugee. After staying there for about 5 years, he went to Germany and sought asylum there. Since his Asylum application was rejected, he was deported from Germany on 4/9/99. On his arrival his passport was taken away by the Immigration Officials at the Airport.
Since he was left with no other documents to establish his identity, other than the receipt that was issued by the Immigration official at the Airport, he was re arrested on 25/10/99 by the Army Personnel and handed over to Kotahena Police. He was arrested under suspicion of being involved in subversive activities.
He was produced before the Magistrates’ Court of Colombo in case number B/6123/3 on 26/10/99 and remanded in Colombo Remand Prison.
We also wish to point out that deported suspects who were taken into custody by the CID have been tortured. Torture occurs regularly in Colombo and is especially directed against Tamils on the basis that they are LTTE suspects. We have been informed by deportees that upon arrest at the airport they were taken for interrogation and tortured by the police officers.
We give below instances of torture:-
We quote a letter written by our secretary at the initial stages to the Anti Harassment Committee about this unfortunate happening that occurred to this deportee.
24th December 1998.
Our Ref: FD/AH/15/98
Anti Harassment Committee,
Moothathambi Vanitha of Meesalai, Chavakachcheri.
Moothathambi Vanitha is a spinster aged twenty and was permanently residing in Meesalai, Chavakachcheri.
Ms. M.Vanitha came to Colombo in August, 98, and was staying at Nactar Inn, 198, Dam St., Colombo. She went to France in September 1998, and was deported on or about the 1st of
October 1998. On her arrival she was arrested and remanded for about a week. On the 7th of October, 1998, she was released on payment of Rs. 10,000/= as fine in Negombo Magistrate’s Court Case No. G 37077.
On the 19th of November 1998, Ms. M. Vanitha was arrested by the Police Officers of Kotahena at the above mentioned Nactor Inn, without even indicating the charges against her neither receipt of arrest was given. She is still in Police Custody and according to her mother Mrs. Moothathambi Kanagamma, the detainee had been severally tortured. The mother further said that the Police Officers of Kotahena had hit the stomach of this girl severely with some iron pipes. They are not allowing her to go to the toilet even to urinate, and also that her legs were swollen.
The mother came to us and reported the matter yesterday, the 23rd day of December 1998. Then my junior Mr. Trini Rayen, Attorney at Law, went to the Police Station, Kotahena, and spoke to the O.I.C., Mr. Bandula Weerawardena. He told him that this girl had been kept well, and she was given a separate room. He denied torture but said that they are continuously questioning her. The O.I.C took my junior to the room this girl is kept in. When my junior saw her, he noticed that her legs were swollen.
This girl Ms. Moothathambi Vanitha was taken by the L.T.T.E by force when she was 14, and had persistently wanted to leave the movement. Then she was made to work in the kitchen, as punishment, after which she continued her studies at Meesalai Veerasingham School, for about 3 years, then she was displaced in Vanni for about a year.
Today, the 24th day of December, the mother visited the daughter in the police station, then the detainee had said that she was assaulted by Police Offices of Kotahena after my junior visited the police station. The mother said that the detainee was slapped severely, and they had hit her all over the body with poles. They had further threatened her, that if she further complaints to anyone else, she would be hung nude upside down and tortured.
I wish to emphasis here that under no circumstances torture or inhuman degrading treatment is permissible in our legal system. Even the Supreme Court reiterated that hard core criminals ought not to be tortured.
I shall be thankful if you could instruct the Police Officers concerned to stop torturing this detainee. I further request you to make arrangements to transfer her to judicial custody if there are any charges against her. We look forward to your kind and expeditious action in this regard.
Ms. Maheswary Velautham
Copy to: Hon. Douglas Devananda, M.P. (Jaffna District)
Earlier – up to early 1998- we came across widespread torture in the form of putting petrol bags round the face, pulling out fingernails, burning parts of the body and putting the male organ in a drawer and slamming the drawer shut onto it. The present trend of torture has advanced to the extent of drilling the anus with a drill, though beatings are much more common. In the outer areas of Colombo, they are still using the petrol bag over the head.
Our clients tell us that torture goes on taking place at police stations in Colombo. Beating with sticks and fists is common. It is routine when the Police really have suspicion of LTTE involvement. A severe problem is that their methods of deciding whom to suspect of Tigers involvement are very random, so many innocent Tamils get caught up, including deportees.
We quote an example, which illustrate the problems confronting a woman asylum deportee. The woman in question was deported from Switzerland, but her husband was allowed to remain there. She came and saw the Secretary of the Forum for Human Dignity. Her parents live in Vavuniya but she is only given 3-day passes to go there and has to return to Colombo after each 3-day visit to them. Her parents cannot afford to live in Colombo, where the cost of living is very high- even if they could get permission. She was forced to live in Colombo alone. Tamil women do not live in lodging houses in Colombo alone. They would be exploited and harassed by men. It is against the culture. They are not safe.
Tamil women living in lodging houses are normally living with some relative-often the mother. They cannot live alone in Colombo. Even a Tamil woman with children faces great problems in Colombo. We produce a copy of letter sent by the secretary of the Forum for Human Dignity of 27.11.98 to the Anti Harassment Committee as an example. A Tamil woman, Mrs. N. Maheswary, was arrested on suspicion by the Mount Lavinia Police on suspicion (of LTTE involement), with her son (11) and niece (aged 9). She was detained from April 1997 to August 1998 there and has been remanded since August in Welikade Prison. Up to 27.11.98, she had no knowledge of what the police had done with her son and niece. She did not even know if they were alive. As a result of our letter, they were traced in a Sinhala children’s home. This is an instance of cruel and inhuman treatment. This is an example of the arbitrary treatment to Tamils in Colombo by the state and, specifically, of the problems Tamil women face. A deported female asylum seeker would be subject to similar treatment by the Security Forces in Colombo.
The possibility of just disappearing is a danger for a returned asylum seeker in Colombo. Another recent example from our clientele is a Tamil Boy named Mr. Nadaraja Navakrishnan Murali, a rejected asylum seeker, thought to have been arrested by the Army on 15.12.99 after being returned to Sri Lanka last May. He is believed to have been arrested by the Army when he went out to buy food. Amnesty International has issued an Urgent Action Bulletin about him. The latest information we have had is that he is being held at an Army Camp at Maharagama in Colombo District. According to his brother, the Army is holding him and about 7 other Tamils there, incommunicado and secretly. We are very concerned about his disappearance. He went through Russia, the Ukraine and Poland before applying for asylum in Germany, I think, which sent him back here.
Appeal of the Amnesty International is given below.
Nadarajah Navakrishnan Murali, aged 27
The young Tamil man named above is believed to have been arrested by the army on 15th December 1999. Since then he has "disappeared". Amnesty International has received unconfirmed reports that he is in the custody of the Directorates of Military Intelligence in the capital, Colombo.
Nadarjah Navakrishnan Murali was working in a telecommunication centre in the Wellawatte area of Colombo. He is believed to have been arrested at around 9.30 pm when he went out to buy food. No witnesses have yet come forward but people in the area confirm that an army vehicle was there at the time.
His relatives have made inquires at local police stations, and have made complaints with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and Committee to inquire into Undue Arrest and Harassment, without success.
Nadarajah Navakrishnamurali, originally from Valvettiturai, Jaffna district, was deported from Poland in May 1999, and took a room in a lodge in Wellawatte. He worked as a tutor during the day, and at a telecommunication centre at night.
Thousands of Tamils living in Colombo have reportedly been arrested recently, in the run-up to presidential elections on 21 December, and after bomb attacks in Colombo believed to have been carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the main armed opposition group fighting for an independent Tamil state in the North and East of the country. Young Tamils from Jaffna are at particular risk of arrest on suspicion of cooperation with, or membership of, the LTTE.
Nadarajah Navakrishnan Murali is the first person reported to have "disappeared" in Colombo since 1995, when the bodies of 31 people abducted in the city were later found in nearby lakes and rivers. An official investigation found evidence that the victims had been held prisoner, tortured and then strangled or drowned by members of the Special Task Force, a special police unit. Cases against some of the alleged perpetrators are pending in the courts but little progress has been reported.
11th March 1999
Our Ref: FD/AH/24/99
Anti Harassment Committee,
Disappearance of Sellathurai Nanthakumar-Deportee from U.K
I write on behalf of my client Mrs. R. Sivanesan of 76, Henley Road, Ilford, Essex, 1G 12TX, U.K.
The above mentioned Sellathurai Nanthakumar is the brother of my client. He was deported from U.K on 10th December 1998 and reached Colombo on 11th December 1998 at 8.35 am. He was deported in the name of Selvarajhkumar Thambipillai.
According to my client, the said Sellathurai Nanthakumar is suffering from psychiatric problems. He cannot recall his name or date of birth correctly.
The said deportee is now missing. He does not even have any family members in Sri Lanka.
We shall be thankful if you could kindly trace his whereabouts and inform us.
Ms. Maheswary Velautham
Copy to: Hon. Douglas Devananda, M.P. (Jaffna District)
After we reported about this to the Anti- Harassment Committee, this news item was published in the paper. On 13-03-99 (Saturday), we got a call from Virakesari saying that some one telephoned and told them (Virakesari) that the said Sellathurai Nanthakumar is in Negombo prison. So we sent our Junior Lawyer Trini Gordon Rayen to Negombo prison on Monday in the afternoon. He could not meet him on that day. Then they asked him to come on the following day. When he went there on the following day, they had told him that he was not there.
Later with great difficulty we traced him in Negombo Prison and took him out on bail. He was discharged by the Magistrate Court of Negombo on 17-08-99.
He is Krisnapillai Sahathevan 28 Years of Ponnalai, deported on 03-02-99 from London. Now he is in Trincomalee. We received a letter from one Mr. M. Sabaratnam from Trincomalee stating that the said deportee is now in Trincomalee and taking treatment for his mental illness.
Some Reasons for Arbitrary arrest & Detention of a deportee
1. National Identity Card (NIC)/ Police Registration/ Police Reports
All Sri Lankans are made to carry a NIC although it is not a legal necessity. If a person looses his/her NIC, applying for a new one is a difficult task. A deported person would face this problem for the reason that he may not have a NIC. In order to obtain a new NIC he may have to stay in Colombo for several months.
Besides this they have to register with the police and obtain a police report. For that, they normally require an NIC. Different police stations operate different procedures and give registration for different periods. (With money, anything can be done, but many returnees do not have money.) Deportees would not normally get indefinite registration by the police in Colombo. They will have to go on renewing their registration. This has caused great difficulty, alarm and displeasure amidst all Tamils in Colombo and are now required to have police registration although, there is no legal basis for this.
A form obtainable at the area Police Station is duly filled in duplicates by the Chief Occupant of the household and submitted to the Officer-In-Charge (O.I.C) of the area Police Station. On his signing this Form, a copy of which is (referred to as Police Report) given back to the Chief Occupant of the household while the other copy is retained by the OIC of the Police Station. This form reveals all details of persons permanently and temporarily living in the Chief Occupant’s house and their relationship to the Chief Occupant. This includes names of relations, visitors, servants, tenants or sub tenants etc. besides the members of his own family residing with the chief occupant.
As to whether such Police Registration Certificates should be produced at Check Points, there seems no Legal Provisions to this effect. Nevertheless, these Police Reports are essentially required to be produced along with the N.I.C.s at the checkpoints. It has now become a practice to detain Tamils who fail to produce the Police Report even in spite of their producing all other Documents including the N.I.C. to prove their identity. Many instances of arrests of Tamils for their failure to produce the Police Report despite their possession of all other documents of identity too are common occurrences.
Tamil returnees (or Tamils coming direct to Colombo from the North or East) whose bodies bear significant marks or scars or injuries, are at once suspected as persons who are LTTE activists and they then face arrest without the need for any further reason.
A mark (scars) on the body also arises the suspicion. The Police and the Army consider these to be of prime significance because they think that those who have them have either been fighters for the LTTE or must have trained for them. If a Tamil is seen to have marks, he/she is immediately suspected. This is so important that it is worth elaborating on this here.
Torture of Tamils in Colombo continues. One recent case the Forum for Human Dignity has been acting in, has the following historic background. The client is Mr. Kathiravel Kamalrajan, now aged about 25. He was first arrested, in the North, on 25.5.96 – at Kaithady in the Chemmani area (where numerous corpses of Tamils killed in 1996-97 by the Army have recently been exhumed). They were indiscriminately arresting Tamils in the North. Kamalrajan, who was one of those arrested then, was taken to the Army Camp at Kopay and tortured very badly.
Kamalrajan is an example of someone who has experienced problems over scars. Torture scars are visible on his lower arms and hands – difficult parts of the body to conceal here. Most just wear short-sleeved shirts so it is hard to conceal these injuries. He has worn long-sleeved shirts all the time because of all the problems he has had with the Security Forces over his scars.
Sexual abuse of male Tamil detainees by policemen and Army members is also on the increase. They appear to get pleasure from abusing Tamils in this humiliating way.
The Security Forces would be, potentially, even more suspicious of surgical scars than other scars –or, at least, equally suspicious. They think that something has happened while fighting for the LTTE which has necessitated surgery. Some members of the Security Forces are probably not bright enough even to know how to distinguish a surgical scar from other scars anyway.
3. Disability as a source of suspicion
Another source of suspicion is disablement –especially of the hands or legs/feet. If a Tamil has this, the Security Forces assume it to result from an injury suffered while fighting for the LTTE. A lot of Tamil suicide bombers in Colombo are female, so this suspicion affects Tamil females as much as males. These forms of disability pose at least as much of a danger as scars.
OTHER ASPECTS OF IMPORTANCE WITH REGARD TO THE DEPORTEE ISSUE
Colombo only a transit point
Colombo is generally only a transit point for most Tamil returnees who have been refused asylum abroad. They either go back to the North and East (despite both being war zones) or, if they can find the money, try again to flee. Living long-term in Colombo is not practical for most asylum seekers.
The "Safe South" of Sri Lanka for Tamil civilians is a myth in view of the harrowing experience of some of the returnees. If he or she is a deportee then the story is much more harrowing as he or she could be subject to instant arrest and detention, kept in custody and then produced before the Magistrate. E.g. The case of Consalas Joseph who was deported from Germany on 22/08/98, was re arrested after the recent Rajagiriya attack by the LTTE. While he was living at 55/26, Avissawalla Road, Urugodawatta. Now he has been remanded at the Welikade Prison.
In this connection we quote below our letter dated 17th September 1998 and the Email dated 13th March 2000.
17th September 1998
Our Ref: FD/GR/98/61
To whom it may concern
I write to state that Mr. Consalas Joseph of 72/32, Rajasingam Road, Jaffna is my client.
He went to Germany in 1990 as a Refugee. His application for asylum was rejected on 20.06.1998. Though he had appealed against that order, he was deported back to Sri Lanka on 22-08-1998.
On his arrival at the Airport in Colombo, he was arrested and assaulted by the C.I.D.
On 22.08.1998 in the evening he was produced before Magistrate, Magistrate Court of Negombo and released on bail. His case is still pending in Court. Next date of calling is 30-10-1998.
All his family members are now living in foreign Countries. He has no relatives in Colombo.
Further, I write to state that he is not in a possession of his National Identity Card and his Passport to establish his identity.
Ms. Maheswary Velautham
Dear Ms. Maheswary Velautham,
Today I want to ask you for support for a young tamil. To our office came Mr. Joseph Valory. He is living in Germany since more than seven years.
His son is Mr. Joseph Consalas. He was also living in Germany for many years. On 21th August 1998 the boy was deported back to Sri Lanka. He lived under following address: 55/26 Avissavalla Road, Urugodawatta, Colombo 14.
Now his father told me that his son was arrested last Friday (2000-03-10) after the last bomb attack in Colombo. He was arrested by Maradana police under following address:
V. Sebastin 75/20 M.M. Road, Maradana, Colombo 10
As far as we know he was one night in the police station and thereafter he was brought to Welikade prison in Colombo. Now we want to ask you, if you could try to investigate, how Mr. Consalas is doing. How long must he stay in prison and soon.
We would be very happy, if you could help us. If there should be any fees, please inform us, we will take care that you will get the money. Thank you so much for your help.
With best regards
Werner Morsch and Joseph Valory
If a Tamil asylum seeker in European country is deported to Sri Lanka he would find it extremely difficult to stay in Colombo. He may not be able to go to places like Vavuniya due to the restrictions imposed on his freedom of movement in that district. He would be completely at the mercy of the police and security personnel. In Colombo he may even find it difficult to stay in a private lodge. He may find it extremely difficult to obtain a police report. There are instances when a deportee who had gone to the police station to obtain a police report had been arrested. One Ampalavani Kuruparan faced this problem we have protested over this type of harassment.
Returned Tamil asylum seekers tend not to stay in Colombo. Police put pressure on them to leave. They are so scared when they return here, they have heard so much while abroad, so they generally get tensed and nervous. This also contributes a great deal to the amount of people, who get arrested on vague suspicion.
Nowadays, it is impossible for them to get jobs in Colombo. Even Colombo Tamils find it really hard to get jobs. For a returned asylum seeker, it is far harder still. Even people like us hesitate for a long time before employing a Tamil here since, if there is something wrong in the person’s past, the employer is going to get into trouble too.
Nobody will normally accommodate a returned asylum seeker, especially a youngster, even in a Tamil house. One may not know who is who –or, if it is a relative, whether there may have been past secret LTTE involvement, so people are even reluctant to put up their own relatives unless it is a really close relative (not even a cousin or nephew) in case there is any reason for the Police to suspect LTTE involvement. Otherwise, the person accommodating the deportee will be in trouble too – so nobody will accommodate these people and all therefore have to be in Lodges.
Dilemma of a deported person living outside Colombo
A returned Tamil asylum seeker originating outside Colombo faces an impossible dilemma because they may well want, in their hearts, to go home to their native area of Sri Lanka. However, such a person cannot go back to the North without clearance from the Ministry of Defence, which has to be obtained via the Police. All citizens have to get permission to go to Jaffna from Colombo – or Vavuniya, where you can only stay on a day pass usually.
It takes a few months to get permission to go to Jaffna unless you pay bribes to get the necessary clearance. Many of these procedures are just perceived by the Security Forces as opportunities to help them make money. If a bribe is paid in this context, then clearance may be issued as a mere formality – but this is a very unsatisfactory way of proceeding. Returned asylum seekers often do not have money to pay bribes with. They would also need to pay for the air ticket to fly to Jaffna.
A returned Tamil asylum seeker, when trying to get an Army Identity card in a cleared area (i.e. cleared of LTTE) or when otherwise coming to the Army’s attention in the North, if he somehow managed to get back there, would be in big trouble if there is any indication of past LTTE involvement. A high percentage of Tamils in the North have past or present LTTE involvement. Even withholding information about someone else’s involvement with the Tigers, is an offence under section 5 of the PTA. A great many of the 800 or so Tamil inmates in Kalutara Prison are held on suspicion of this.
The gravity of the situation fluctuates here. It is particularly bad at the moment because of the recent LTTE bombings in Colombo.
It is clear that the International community has now recognized that human rights violations are a major cause of mass exodus in Sri Lanka. As pointed out in the preceding paragraphs the Tamils are being denied their basic rights and are harassed by the security officers. Due to the ongoing war the Tamils in the North and Eastern province are displaced. The Tamils are always suspected as members of the LTTE. They are undergoing grave and unbearable hardships. In places like Vavuniya displaced Tamil people are confined in camps established and maintained by the state. These camps are called as welfare centres. From these camps an inmate is permitted to go out to the town for a limited time of about 4 hours. There are also other different categories of restrictions imposed by the security personnel by issuing different category of pass. Such a pass is issued for 3 days duration, 3 months duration and a permanent pass. This pass system was introduced in or about 1996 and the people in this district and those intent to enter and or leave this district are undergoing grave headship in total violation of their Fundamental Rights to move freely.
Forum for Human Dignity urge the European countries to consider the Human Rights Violations to Sri Lankan Tamils, and seriously consider this problem before a Sri Lankan Tamil could be voluntarily repatriated.
In our view as long as violations of Human Rights persist in Sri Lanka to Tamils of the North and east, it is doubtful whether any asylum seeker who has sought refuge in European countries would decide to return voluntarily. Restoration of respect for and promotion of all categories of Human Rights and the cessation of violent conflict in Sri Lanka are the necessary condition for the voluntary return of refugees. As long as Human Rights violations continue to persist in Sri Lanka ,mass exodus of Tamils will continue. If peace is not restored, as pointed out above the deportees would be subject to sever harassment at the hands of security personnel.
We also wish to point out that at the time of writing this report the situation in the Colombo capital is rather volatile. The police and security personnel are rather severe on the Tamils after the recent Rajagiraya attack by the suspected LTTE. A large number of Tamils were arrested and detained after this incident including one Joseph Consals who was deported from Germany to Sri Lanka. He was living at the time of his arrest at number 55/26, Avissawalla Road, Urugodawatta. Now he has been remanded at the Welikade Prison.
Incidents of Tamils being harassed on the basis that they are Terrorist are on the increase. We wish to make specific mention of the following incidents:-
We also wish to point out that the war between the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka is continuing. The Government is also involved on a constitutional reform process. Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek also visited Colombo on February 16th to explore the possibility of bring the Government and the LTTE back to the negotiating table. In the meantime LTTE on the 25th March, mounted an assault on artillery positions at Pallai and Elephant Pass. Since then heavy fighting is continuing. According to reports available large number of soldiers were killed and also reported to be missing. Large number of civilians were also reported to be displaced.
The security forces have been given arbitrary powers of arrest and detention. These wide powers have contributed to the prevalence of Human Rights violations and exercise of arbitrary authority. Years of ethnic strife and conflict has left a legacy of violence and an on-going civil war has left Sri Lanka as a cleft country. The high profile role of the state security apparatus and a complete clamp down on the media to report events freely and the Government’s control of the state media, and lack of access to places to obtain facts independently casts an immense responsibility on the NGO’s and HR’s organization, to be vigilant and monitor fairly and impartially. The Forum for Human Dignity will not abdicate its responsibility as a HR watch, whether the breach of human rights comes from the state or its opponents.
It shall be noted that the Tamils who are arrested, tortured and detained and the Asylum seekers who are displaced, arrested, tortured and detained after arrival are all not common criminals. They are all civilians with no criminal record whatever. It is unfortunate that they should be subjected to such inhuman treatment as if they are common criminals.
These will no doubt affect them mentally and physically which should not be allowed to happen in the interest of a civil society.
In conclusion, Forum for Human Dignity appeal and urge the Western countries to seriously monitor the current situation in Sri Lanka and not to deport the Sri Lankan asylum seekers to Sri Lanka till a political solution is found and implemented fully.
Ms. Maheswary Velautham
Forum for Human Dignity