Amnesty slams governments over refugees

[TamilNet, Thursday, 27 August 1998, 00:54 GMT]
Amnesty International, the human rights watchdog has criticised the governments of Guinea Conakry, Sri Lanka, Canada and the United States for their roles in the deportation of 192 Tamil refugees seekers whose boat was intercepted by the Senegalese navy on 24 February. The refugees "were all returned to Sri Lanka where they were arrested and held in detention for several weeks" said Amnesty.

In a press release issued on 25 August, Amnesty said that it is "concerned that several governments involved in their return may have acted in breach of their obligations under international standards" with regards to the refugees.

The international standards which were breached include the United Nations (UN) Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its Statute, said Amnesty.

The government of Guinea Conakry failed to provide the refugees with access to a fair determination procedure and the government of Sri Lanka broke its undertakings that those returned would not be detained on arrival, said Amnesty.

"The governments of Canada and the United States of America (who reportedly funded the chartering of the aeroplane) must also account for their role in the return operation", said Amnesty.

Amnesty International said it is writing to relevant authorities of these governments "to request specific information".

On 6 August, Amnesty raised its concern for Thambirajah Kamalathasan, one of the refugees repatriated to Sri Lanka, "who was tortured for several days following his arrest by [Sri Lankan] police on 15 July 1998"

"According to the latest information Thambirajah Kamalathasan experienced pain all over his body and had difficulty walking for several days following his transfer to the Terrorist Investigation Department of the police headquarters in Colombo on 21 July", said Amnesty on 25 August.

Amnesty said Kamalathasan had been visited by the International Committee of the Red Cross, who provided him with treatment, but not by the Sri Lankan government funded Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka.

Although "no investigation into reports of his torture at Pettah police station after his arrest is known to have been initiated", Amnesty believes Kamalathasan is "no longer at risk of torture".

Amnesty says it will continue to closely monitor Kamalathasan's situation.

 

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