UN finds torture 'routine’ and 'systematic': Australia must accept Tamil asylum seekers

July 29, 2018

The Tamil Refugee Council has again called on the Australian government to end the deportation of Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, after the United Nations found evidence of widespread torture in the country.

The report of Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson, released on July 23 after his latest mission to Sri Lanka, concludes: “[I]mpunity is still the rule for those responsible for the routine and systemic use of torture, and countless individuals are the victims of gross miscarriages of justice resulting from the operation of the PTA [Prevention of Terrorism Act].

“The Tamil community remains stigmatised and disenfranchised, while the trust of other minority communities is being steadily eroded.”

The report further notes that Emmerson heard “distressing testimonies of very brutal and cruel methods of torture, including beatings with sticks, the use of stress positions, asphyxiation using plastic bags drenched in kerosene, pulling out of fingernails, insertion of needles beneath the fingernails, use of various forms of water torture, suspension of individuals for several hours by their thumbs, and mutilation of genitals.”

The release of the Human Rights Council report comes just one week after a 30-year-old Tamil asylum seeker, Thileepan, was separated from his wife Karthika and infant daughter Najomi, before being deported to Sri Lanka by the Australian government.

The United Nations condemned the government’s action.

Before fleeing Sri Lanka in 2012, Thileepan had been tortured by the Sri Lankan security forces during an interrogation over his alleged knowledge of arms and money stored by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, an organisation militarily defeated in 2009 that fought for an independent Tamil homeland.

He says that he was kicked, beaten with a coconut tree branch and had pins jammed into his fingernails.

“We tried, but we couldn’t stop Theelipan’s deportation,” Aran Mylvaganam, Tamil Refugee Council spokesperson, said. “Australian Border Force officers had been told the United Nations Human Rights Committee was considering Thileepan’s case. The Home Affairs Ministry deported him anyway, like it has sent back more than 1000 others.

“The government has made it clear that he will not be the last. We will continue to pursue every legal avenue available to keep Tamil asylum seekers here. But the laws are stacked against us.

“The latest report from Ben Emmerson confirms what we have been saying for years: Sri Lanka continues to be unsafe for returned Tamils.”

The Tamil Refugee Council is calling for an end to Tamil deportations and the granting of protection visas to all Tamil asylum seekers.

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