Sri Lanka

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].

Two people died and homes, vehicles, shops and mosques were burnt during anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka.

The riots began in Kandy on March 5 and spread to other nearby towns. Victims accused the police of failing to protect them in the early stages of the violence. A state of emergency was declared on March 6.

On November 27, known to Tamils as Heroes Day, those who died fighting for an independent Tamil homeland were commemorated at ceremonies throughout the north and east of Sri Lanka.

More than 1000 students marched through the streets of Jaffna demanding freedom for Tamil political prisoners on November 14.

An appeal issued by the Jaffna Universty Students Union read: "At least 132 Tamil political prisoners are languishing in the prisons of Sri Lankan state across the island. Many of them have been detained for years without trial".

Three Tamil political prisoners, who had been on hunger strike for 38 days, ended it on November 4.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s enthusiastic embrace of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is reprehensible, the Tamil Refugee Council said on November 2.

The predominantly Tamil northern province of Sri Lanka was at a “complete standstill” on October 13, according to Tamilnet. All public and private businesses were shut down.

The strike was called by 20 grassroots movements to demand the unconditional release of all Tamil political prisoners.

Protesters blocked the A9 highway, and blockaded the secretariat of the Colombo-appointed governor of the Northern Province.

The next day protesters with black flags confronted Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena who was visiting a school in Jaffna.

Students and staff of Jaffna University rallied on October 4 in support of three Tamil prisoners who are on hunger strike.

The prisoners are accused of having been members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka, until defeated in May 2009. The Sri Lankan government’s victory was accompanied by a genocidal massacre of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians.

Tamils and Muslims in Manaar, a town in the north of Sri Lanka, rallied on September 5 in solidarity with the Rohingya people of Myanmar. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been forced to flee Myanmar in recent weeks due to military attacks.

Many Tamils and Muslims see similarities between the situations in Sri Lanka and Myanmar. In both countries, Buddhism is the dominant religion and Buddhist monks have helped incite hatred against religious and ethnic minorities.

The predominantly Tamil north and east of the island of Sri Lanka were brought to a “complete standstill” on April 27, Tamilnet reported, as a result of a strike called by unions, civil groups and Tamil political parties.

It was supported by the Northern Provincial Council, which suspended its sitting. In some towns Muslims joined Tamils in the strike.

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