HRW’s Sri Lanka torture report will help UK asylum seekers, says TAG
Credible new evidence of Sri Lanka’s torture of recent deportees from Britain, disclosed recently in a report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW), a premier Rights group based in New York, will significantly bolster ongoing litigation to halt the UK’s deportations, said Tamils Against Genocide (TAG), in a litigation update released today. HRW said the UK should suspend deportations of ethnic Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka and immediately review its policies and information about the country’s rights situation used to assess their claims." About 100 Tamil asylum seekers are scheduled deportation from the United Kingdom on February 28, 2012.
In the case Tamils Against Genocide v United Kingdom (Application reference 77045/11) at the Queens Bench Administrative Court in December 2011, TAG had argued that the deportation of asylum seekers in a UK chartered flight in December breached a legitimate expectation that the policy on removal will be reviewed, in the light of ‘credible and relevant evidence’ of torture of returnees. The report of the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) was included as evidence of ongoing torture, as was the 2011 report by British NGO Freedom From Torture.
But, Justice Mitting J held that each decision for removal must be individually appealed, and refused to allow a generic appeal. "The sole reason for refusal of permission was on the ground that a claim can only succeed on the grounds of individualized applications based on profile and not on the grounds of a challenge to the failure to review policy in the light of credible allegations of torture of failed asylum seekers on return," Lower Court Judge Mitting said in the order.
When the UK Appeals Court also sided with Justice Mitting, TAG filed an action before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which also has jurisdiction over such asylum cases.
TAG’s UK spokesperson Jan Jananayagam said that her organization will now take on board Mitting J’s criticism by incorporating the statement from HRW, and will assist individuals in bringing appeals to the UK courts, in addition to the ongoing class action in Europe.
Individual appeals to the UK High Court is be launched on Monday, TAG said.
“The evidence collected by HRW and their willingness to go public significantly alters the playing field," said TAG, adding “we urge asylum claimants and their solicitors to incorporate the new evidence into their appeals. TAG will make available new statements of evidence to interested refugees and their solicitors. Details of how to liaise with TAG to benefit from these new developments can be found in the litigation section of the TAG website."
Meanwhile, responding to Parliamentary questions on Wednesday the UK Foreign Office Minister, Alistair Burt, continued to deny that deportees from the UK are being detained and tortured by Sri Lankan authorities on their return. "We are aware of media allegations that returnees are being abused. All have been investigated by the High Commission, and no evidence has been found to substantiate any of them,” Alistair Burt said.
Alistair Burt’s position was flatly contradicted by Human Rights Watch and others who have declined to be named for fear of the safety of their witnesses.
In a related development the UK’s Metropolitan Police have held discussions with NGOs working on preventing torture in Sri Lanka. The Metropolitan Police confirm they have made arrangements to collect evidence from witnesses and victims of torture at the point of entry to the United Kingdom and to arrange for a medical examination where necessary.
“While asylum seekers may be unfamiliar with British procedures and fear disclosing information, they should not hesitate to provide details on torture and other rights abuses to the police, if they or their family members are victims or witnesses to rights abuses, and ask for a referral to a non governmental Human Rights organization (NGO) that they trust,” TAG said.
An immigration attorney in the UK said that credibility issues arise when evidence relating to torture and other war crimes is introduced late in the asylum claim.. "It is always best for victims and their families to contact a victim support NGO at the earliest possible opportunity," the attorney added.