"Political matters beyond our competence"
[TamilNet, Friday, 02 July 1999, 12:56 GMT]
The US Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C has dismissed a petition filed in November 1997 by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) challenging its designation by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as a foreign terrorist organization, saying that the courts "were forbidden" to speak on the subject.
In a decision issued on June 25 the Court said that the Secretary of State's conclusion that the LTTE engaged in terrorist activities might be mistaken but that it had no way of judging this, according to a press release issued by the LTTE's lawyers, Ramsey Clark Lawrence W. Schilling and Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran.
The Court also said that the materials compiled by the Secretary of State without any notice to LTTE, including secret information reviewed by the Court but not shown to LTTE were based on third hand accounts such as press stories and materials available on the Internet.
The Court stressed that the information thus compiled is not certainly evidence that would normally be received in court.
"The record consists entirely of hearsay, none of it was ever subjected to adversary testing and there was no opportunity for counter-evidence by the organizations affected...we reach no judgement whatsoever regarding whether the material before the secretary is or is not true" the Court said.
"designation may be improper because the Secretary's judgement that the organization threatens our national security is completely irrational, and devoid of any support. Or her findings about national security may be exactly correct. We are forbidden from saying," the Court said.
"That we cannot pronounce on the question, does not mean that we must assume the Secretary was right. It means we cannot make any assumptions one way or the other," the Court said.
The Court said "the Secretary's designations embody..discretion as to political matters beyond competence of the courts to adjudicate" in reference to the LTTE's position that it was a de facto government and not a foreign organisation, a requirement for designation.
The Court expressed the belief that in reviewing the designation in this way it was not "allowing the reputation of the Judicial branch to be 'borrowed by the political branches to cloak their work in the neutral colors of judicial action.'"
The Court rejected LTTE's claim that the designation denied it due process of law under the U.S constitution, ruling that a foreign entity without property or presence in the United States has no rights under the U.S constitution.
The Court did not address LTTE's due process claims based on natural justice and international law said the LTTE's lawyers.
"The result reached in this case clearly confirms the political nature of the conflict and that the Secretary of State's label of LTTE as "terrorist" based on no legal evidence does not contribute to the cause of peace in the island of SriLanka," the lawyers said.
"LTTE believes that third party mediation is essential for the peaceful resolution of the conflict," they added.
"The Secretary of State can stand on the side of justice by using her influence to bring about a negotiated settlement to the costly conflict and create a political climate that will ensure the security and recognize the right to self-determination of both the Tamil people and the Sinhala people," the lawyers said further.
LTTE is consulting with its lawyers regarding its next move.