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Dutch court convicts 5 Tamils, says LTTE not "terrorist"

[TamilNet, Saturday, 22 October 2011 09:40 No Comment]

The Hague district court, by refusing to brand Liberation Tigers as a "terrorist" organization, defied the current European Union policy, but convicted five Tamil naturalized dutch citizens to prison terms for using "nonviolent threats to force Tamil exiles to donate to the Tigers." The Dutch decision, in addition to being a "significant public relations victory for the Tigers" will also be critical to the on-going case in the European Court of Justice to overturn the 2006 decision by the EU to put the Tamil Tigers on the terror list, the Washington Post said. Victor Koppe, attorney for one of the defendants, said he would appeal the convictions.

The prison terms ranged from 2 years to 6 years. Selliah, the book keeper of collected funds outside Sri Lanka, received the longest prison term, according to reports.

The court said the Tigers’ 26-year battle for an independent Tamil state, which cost an estimated 100,000 lives, was a “non-international armed conflict.” That means that any atrocities committed by either side should be classified as war crimes or crimes against humanity, and not terror attacks, according to the Washington Post.

“For the LTTE, this is a very good judgment,” Koppe told The Associated Press after the verdict. “It will be Exhibit A in the LTTE procedure in Luxembourg [EU Court of Justice].”

A spokesperson for Tamils Against Genocide (TAG), a US-based activist group, said: "If the Dutch case is a harbinger of future legal decisions, the post-9/11 cloud of terrorism which mischaracterized the aim and objectives of the thirty-year old Tamil national liberation struggle is receding.

"The Dutch Court’s legal classification of the war as a non-international armed conflict, and not part of the Global War on Terror, raises far-reaching questions concerning the legality of counter-terrorism efforts taken by actors in the international community in Sri Lanka on a broad range of issues, from terrorism-based detentions in New York to war crimes in Mullivaikaal to Tamil asylum claims in Japan and Thailand.

"A continuation of earlier rulings in Australia and the United Kingdom sympathetic to Tamil defendants, and which also questioned the State violence, the Dutch ruling provides a basis with the force of customary international law to reject Sri Lankan justifications for war crimes and crimes against humanity that arise from domestic counter-terrorism instruments," TAG said of the Dutch Court decision.

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