HRW hits out at Malaysia for repatriating 3 suspected LTTE activist

HRW hits out at Malaysia for repatriating 3 suspected LTTE activist

May 28, 2014   11:10 am

Global rights advocate Human Rights Watch has hit out at Malaysia for violating international laws in “forcibly” repatriating three men to Sri Lanka, whom a top police official had claimed were suspected Tamil Tigers out to revive the separatist group.

The international non-governmental organisation claimed the trio, who were under the protection of United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, were returned to Sri Lanka without any evidence being presented to substantiate the terrorism allegations.

It said the men faced “grave risk” back in Sri Lanka and called on the Sri Lankan authorities to ensure their safety.

It said although Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, customary international refugee and human rights laws require it to respect the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits countries from sending anyone back to a country where his life or freedom would be threatened or where he would face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

“Sri Lanka’s treatment of these three men who have been forcibly returned by Malaysia is now in the international spotlight,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“Malaysia should now do all it can to stop further abuses for which it might be complicit.”

He said the forced return of the men was no free pass for torture and mistreatment, which Human Rights Watch had previously documented over the Sri Lankan authorities’ use of torture against people suspected of having links to the now defunct Tamil Tigers.

“Governments can’t just pick and choose when to protect refugees. Malaysia seemed more interested in burnishing its ties with Sri Lanka than honouring its obligation to protect refugees from possible persecution and torture,” he added.

Malaysian authorities first arrested the three men, all ethnic Tamils on May 15 and detained them for 14 days for offences under the immigration act.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar (pic) had said the trio, who had been in the country since 2004, had used Malaysia as a base to collect funds, spread their propaganda, and were attempting to revive the Tamil Tigers group at international level.

Police also seized propaganda material of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and various foreign currencies.

Sri Lankan’s government media sites had reported that the men were now detained by the police’s Terrorist Investigation Division in the northern town of Kilinochchi.

The official website of Sri Lanka’s Defence Ministry posted an article denouncing the three men as supporters of LTTE, heightening concerns for their safety.

There is a small but affluent Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora living in Malaysia after migrating from their homeland many decades ago.

Sri Lanka’s military killed Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran on May 18, 2009 and declared an end to 37 years of armed conflict. – May 28, 2014, Malaysian Insider reports.

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