Sri Lanka not a 'society at peace', says Tamil Refugee Council

Sri Lanka has confirmed plans for asylum seekers from its persecuted Tamil ethnic minority to be directly handed over by Australia at sea. Although the Australian government has refused to confirm or deny such plans, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on July 3 that Sri Lanka was “a society at peace” that had made “much progress” on human rights.

That day, the Tamil Refugee Council released a statement explaining the true situation in Sri Lanka that included the ive points below.

* * *

1. Abbott says Sri Lanka is “a society at peace” yet his own foreign affairs department's latest travel advisory, issued last month, says: “We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution due to the unpredictable security environment.”

2. The Sri Lankan government is under investigation by the UN for war crimes and crimes against humanity, accused of the pre-mediated murder of as many as 70,000 innocent Tamil civilians at the end of the civil war in 2009.

The Sri Lankan government has refused to co-operate with the investigation and has threatened to prosecute any of its citizens who give evidence.

3. Under Abbott, Australia refused to join its traditional allies such as the US and Britain in supporting the investigation. Instead it has aligned itself with the likes of China and Russia in trying to block any independent investigations into these war crimes.

4. Torture and rape are common occurrences in post-war Sri Lanka, as documented in many reports. Human Rights Watch last year detailed 75 cases of rape and sexual torture of men, women and children in custody, almost half of them had taken place since the war ended and about a third had been citizens returning to the country.

British foreign secretary William Hague announced last month his government was investigating the rape and sexual torture of returned Tamil asylum-seekers.

5. The Sri Lankan military has grown in size since the end of the war. There is a military occupation in the Tamil homelands in the north, with one soldier for every five people.