What the European Court of Justice (ECJ) proves implicitly is that under European Law, you do not need evidence to classify a group as a ‘terrorist’ organisation, commented US-based Eezham Tamil legal activist, Mr Rajeev Sreetharan, who was one of the initiators of the LTTE vs EU case adjudged by the ECJ on Thursday. However, he added that the ECJ ruling, although tainted by questionable post 9/11 interpretations of international humanitarian law, in essence vindicates assumptions in deciding to challenge the EU ban of the LTTE in a court of law, rather than the halls of government. Rajeev was hopeful that the lifting of the ‘terrorism’ ban helps to begin reshape the European climate for Tamil politics.
Rajeev Sreetharan, currently an Attorney-at-Law in the USA specializing in Intellectual Property, was interviewed by TamilNet on Friday. He has also worked with Victor Koppe’s group in Amsterdam in terrorism cases.
TamilNet: Can you comment on the ECJ ruling on the LTTE?
Rajeev Sreetharan: The ECJ ruling, although tainted by questionable post-9/11 interpretations of international humanitarian law, in essence vindicates two of our assumptions in deciding to challenge the EU ban of the LTTE in a court of law, rather than the halls of government.
First, the EU never had, and never attempted to advance a scintilla of credible, probative evidence to substantiate the legal re-characterization of the LTTE from an armed liberation movement to a terrorist organization.
Second, despite this absence of credible, probative evidence, the EU assumed that the European Tamil Diaspora lacked the capacity, vision, will, and resources to not only challenge, but defeat the EU’s LTTE ban in a court of law. The EU was mistaken.
TamilNet: Will the decision impact Tamil diaspora political activism in Europe and outside?
Rajeev Sreetharan: Modern counter-terrorism models often racially profile and criminalize Diasporas that support legitimate armed movements fighting state-sponsored injustice in their homeland.
Sri Lanka is a case in point, as experienced by the European, North-American and Australian Tamil Diaspora since 9/11.
Absent a legal challenge, it is unclear as to when the EU would have de-proscribed the LTTE of its own volition. Perhaps never. The ramifications on Tamil political activity in Europe were grave. In many instances, even after May 2009, the proscription was utilized in European domestic security policy as a pretext to harass the European Tamil Diaspora, incarcerating political leaders and activists, while placing ordinary Tamil citizens under surveillance, with a view to paralyzing Tamil political mobilization on the continent.
We hope that the lifting of the terrorism ban helps to begin reshape the European climate for Tamil politics. At the same time, this is an inspiration for the Eelam Tamil diaspora in North America, Australia and elsewhere.
TamilNet: Do you think the ruling will set a legal precedent?
Rajeev Sreetharan: The court’s explicit emphasis that its ruling is not a substantive assessment of the LTTE’s classification is instructive. While the ruling is not on the issue of classification, the ruling is a substantive demonstration of the fact that it is and remains possible for the Council of Europe within European jurisdictional space to criminalize a non-state actor and an entire Diaspora with essentially no credible, probative evidence. As to this point, the court’s position or lack thereof on the classification of the post-May 2009 LTTE is a Red Herring. What the Court proves implicitly, is under European law, you do not need evidence to classify a group as a terrorist organization, illustrated by the continued freeze of assets for example.
TamilNet: What is the impact of this ruling on Eelam Tamils’ long quest for self-determination and independence?
Rajeev Sreetharan: The fate of justice for Tamils and the concept of fundamental Tamil liberty remain, as they always have, in the hearts and minds of the Tamil people.