Feature Article

UK urged to charge Karuna for war crimes

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 06 November 2007, 14:09 GMT]
Karuna, a former Tamil Tiger commander and later the leader of TMVP paramiitary group that has been deployed by the Sri Lankan forces in their war against the Tigers, has been arrested in Britain on suspicion of immigration offences, including traveling on a false passport, British press reports said this week. International human rights groups are now calling on the UK government to investigate Vinayagamoorthi Muraleetharan (Karuna) for war crimes and are assembling evidence to see whether they can trigger a prosecution, reports said. Amid fears by rights groups that Karuna would be deported to Sri Lanka, some press reports said he had applied for asylum in Britain.

Muraleetharan alias Karuna was detained last Friday in a combined operation by immigration officials and the Metropolitan police, The Guardian newspaper reported.

It is thought the raid took place in London; his wife is also understood to be in the country, the paper said.

He was reportedly ousted last month following an internal coup in his paramilitary organisation, the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), which runs armed camps in eastern Sri Lanka.

SL Govt issued Idendity Card
Sri Lanka Government issued National Identity Card under the name "Vigneswaran Mathankumar" on 10.05.2004, a month after renegade LTTE commander Mr. Vinayagamoorthy Muraleetharan (alias Karuna) fled Batticaloa.
Karuna, the Tamil Tigers’ former eastern commander, had formed the TMVP in 2004 after his six week rebellion against the LTTE leadership collapsed, whereupon he defected to his erstwhile enemy, the Sri Lankan armed forces. He was also allegedly used by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India's foreign intelligence agency, in a failed attempt to forge a front between a India based paramilitary group, the ENDLF and the Karuna Group in the east.

This year the TMVP itself split, with the second-in-command, Pillaiyaan, breaking away, apparently with Sri Lankan government support.

The Hindustan Times said that the Sri Lankan armed forces did not need Karuna any more and were promoting Pillaiyaan instead.

The UK Home Office confirmed to The Guardian newspaper that former Tamil Tiger commander was being held in an immigration detention. It would not say whether his case was being studied by its internal war crimes unit.

The LTTE is banned in the UK as a terrorist group.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Coalition to Stop Child Soldiers are all investigating the possibility of initiating an official investigation.

Charges can be brought in the UK by the government against those suspected of war crimes or torture committed anywhere in the world.

"Under article six of the Geneva conventions," an Amnesty spokesman said, "if the UK is satisfied there's reasonable testimony of torture the government would have to start a preliminary inquiry under UK law.

"If one person was to complain with credible evidence then there would have to be an investigation. We are in touch with international groups about bringing evidence to this country to help the police and prosecution services."

James Ross, legal and policy director of Human Rights Watch in New York, said: "We have raised our concerns with the UK government. We would like [the government] to see whether there's a valid basis under the principle of universal jurisdiction to prosecute Col Karuna for possible war crimes or human rights abuses such as torture."

Lucia Withers, Asia programme manager of the Coalition to Stop Child Soldiers in London, said a possible prosecution of Col Karuna would be an "exemplary" case.

The question is whether in Britain universal jurisdiction for war crimes extends to the use of children, she added.

Karuna has been accused of conscripting children.

The Home Office said: "We have a war crimes unit, formed in 2004, to ensure that we are not providing sanctuary to [war criminals]. Where appropriate we refer cases to the Metropolitan police for criminal action."

Human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, fear Karuna will be deported by the Home Office before he can be charged in Britain.

Meanwhile, the Hindustan Times reported that Karuna, who had been arrested by the UK authorities for traveling on a false passport, had applied for asylum.

23.12.07  Passport fiasco

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