British High Court of Justice, Administrative Court Judge, Mr Justice Eady, noting "[t]he recent Human Rights Watch report, dated 29.05.2012 suggests that there may be new evidence relevant to the risk of ill treatment," overturned the removal order on about 40 failed Tamil asylum seekers, in a dramatic last-minute order hailed by rights groups and attorneys representing to be deportees as a landmark decision in UK. "Judicial attitudes have changed," and "previously hard-line judges are granting stays, mostly on grounds of risk upon return," said Barristor Paramjothy from a London-based legal institution.
Barristors Nishan Paramjorthy and Shivani Jegarajah say they represent a judicial shot across the bows of the British government, Channel-4 news reported.
The High Court judge orders "that the secretary of state be restrained from removing the applicant from this jurisdiction," Channel-4 said, adding, today’s flight was the fifth British government charter flight to Sri Lanka since June last year.
The flights are routinely kept secret, and the UK Border Agency has a policy of not commenting on them.
Human Rights Watch has documented 13 credible cases over the past two years in which failed Tamil asylum-seekers from Europe have been tortured after landing in Sri Lanka, and warned that those cases are likely to be "just the tip of the iceberg.
Noting that the judgement was a dramatic development, Channel-4 said:
On learning what had happened, David Mepham, the UK director of Human Rights Watch said: "This is a very dramatic development. It is incredibly welcome that a High Court judge has recognised the serious risk facing failed Tamil asylum-seekers.
"This should be a wakeup call for the British government. Its existing policy towards Sri Lanka is fundamentally flawed and needs to be seriously re-thought."
There has been a steady stream of damning reports from international human rights groups as well the United Nations, the US State Department and, most recently, the British government itself. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office report, published last month, says human rights in Sri Lanka was of "serious concern".
It cited attacks on journalists and human rights defenders, disappearances and abductions and quoted recent submissions to the UN Convention Against Torture alleging the widespread use of torture in Sri Lanka. Channel 4 News has documented recent cases of torture, corroborated by medical and legal reports.
Tamils Against Genocide (TAG) a US-UK based activist group released a research report Tuesday documenting details of evidence of the "risk of persecution upon return simply by virtue of the fact that they sought asylum abroad and also because of imputed political opinion regarding involvement with or sympathy for the LTTE."
"Increased legal actions challenging deportation cases and the relentless campaign by rights group have resulted in this commendable judgement on behalf of Tamil asylum seekers. The judgement is an indirect indictment on Sri Lanka’s rights violations, a judgement which Colombo will find difficult to recover from," Jan Jananayagam, TAG’s spokesperson said.