Italy: Free Tamil human rights campaigners

July 19, 2008

The following statement was released by a number of European socialist groups affiliated to the Fourth International. For the list of organisations, visit

The Italian government has arrested over 30 Sri Lankan Tamils from all over the country. These arrests took place after the Tamils participated in the "Pongu Tamil" (Tamil Awakening) rally held in Milan.

The rally, held in Piazza Argentina in Milan, highlighted human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan government that is waging a war against the Tamils. It was also addressed by Burani Vainer from the Association of Democratic Jurists.

The arrests were made after Sri Lankan diplomats made a complaint to police authorities that the rally was organised by supporters of the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE — the Tamil Tigers), which is waging an armed struggle for the right to self-determination for the Tamil nation, currently part of the Sri Lankan state.

Although police have told media that the Tamils were arrested under suspicion of "extortion", no one has yet faced court. The Italian government has not made an official statement on the arrest of a large number of non-Italians on their soil.

We see these arrests as a move to undermine the legitimate demand of the Tamil nation for self-determination and to suppress the Tamil voice against atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan government.

While strongly protesting the arrest of a group of people exercising their democratic right to demand justice, we call upon the Italian government to provide access to adequate legal redress for the arrested Tamils and to make their release speedy.

We also request the Italian authorities not hand those arrested over to Sri Lankan authorities — from whom they have fled from prosecution.

We also call upon all socialists, anti-war and progressive forces to unreservedly oppose this repressive act by Italian authorities. We reaffirm our call for the lifting of the ban on the LTTE in Europe, which victimises Tamils.

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