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Australian Premier Says Sri Lanka Safe Amid Refugee Row

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  • Australian Premier Says Sri Lanka Safe Amid Refugee Row

    Australian Premier Says Sri Lanka Safe Amid Refugee Row
    03 July 2014

    SYDNEY(DPA) The government has declined to comment this week on reports that an Australian customs vessel intercepted a boatload of 153 Tamils, including 37 children, in the Indian Ocean, based on a phone call to reporters from a man saying he was a passenger.

    Fairfax media said they were given a cursory interview before being rejected for admission to Australia as refugees.

    Abbott and Immigration Scott Morrison refused to comment on the reports, but said they were determined that no boats would reach Australia.

    When pressed on the fate of the asylum seekers by reporters in Canberra, Abbott said boats would be turned around when it was safe to do so.

    "Sri Lanka is not everyone's idea of the ideal society but it is at peace," Abbott told reporters. "A horrific civil war has ended. I believe that there has been a lot of progress when it comes to human rights and the rule of law in Sri Lanka."

    Labor's shadow immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the public had a right to know what the government was doing with the would-be refugees.

    Greens leader Christine Milne said if the Tamils were being sent back to Sri Lanka it was the first case of Australia returning people to countries where they are being persecuted.

  • #2
    Is Australia Betraying Its Past By Handing Over Would Be Refugees in Boats?
    Azadeh Dastyari
    Thursday, July 3, 2014

    AUSTRALIA appears to have reached a new all-time low in its violation of international obligations and its treatment of vulnerable people seeking Australia's protection.

    If widespread media reports are true, Australia is preparing to hand over to the Sri Lankan Navy a group of Tamil asylum seekers who fled Sri Lanka. The group reportedly includes 37 children and may include refugees and people at risk of torture.

    The facts are sketchy and it is very difficult to work out the truth. The Australian government refuses to comment on ''on-water operational matters''. There have been contradictory statements from Sri Lankan officials.

    Screening processes

    It has been reported that Australia conducted rudimentary screening of the asylum seekers via teleconference to determine if they are refugees or at risk of torture.

    It is believed that Australia asked asylum seekers their ''name, country of origin, where they had come from and why they had left''.

    However, such screening is insufficient. It cannot adequately identify people whose life is in danger or who may need protection from torture and persecution.

    People are often sick, confused and overwhelmed at sea. They are unlikely to be in a position to articulate their need for protection.

    They may also be unaware of their rights or understand why they are being asked the questions they are being asked.

    Importantly, a teleconference requires a person who may have been persecuted or even tortured by government officials in the past to speak about their fears to a government official they cannot see, do not know and may not trust.

    There is little privacy on board sea vessels and there is no way of knowing if others on board the vessel will report what one is saying to the government one is fleeing.

    It is for these reasons that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has previously called for the screening of asylum seekers intercepted at sea to be done on land.

    Possible international law breaches

    If Australia is in fact handing over Tamil refugees to the Sri Lankan government, the law being violated by Australia is very clear. Article 33 (1) of the UN Refugee Convention states:

    No Contracting State shall expel or return (refouler) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

    Article 33 (1) is arguably the most important provision in the Refugee Convention. The convention was adopted in part to ensure that the international community would never again turn its back on people fleeing persecution.

    Many nations were committed to prevent the recurrence of what happened to Jewish refugees who were handed back to their persecutors during some of the darkest periods in Europe???s history.

    Australia voluntarily signed on to the Refugee Convention and therefore has willingly adopted a legal obligation to refrain from returning refugees to harm. Many people of Tamil ethnicity may have a well-founded fear of being persecuted in Sri Lanka. Handing refugees back to their persecutors is a violation of this obligation.

    Australia is also a party to the UN Convention Against Torture, which clearly states in Article 3(1) that:

    No State Party shall expel, return (''refouler'') or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

    Given the continuing allegations of the torture of Tamils in Sri Lanka, Australia may be in violation of its obligation to protect at least some of the asylum seekers from torture.

    The asylum seekers being handed over to the Sri Lankan government may have travelled to Australia via India. This does not in any way diminish Australia's obligations to any of the asylum seekers who are refugees.

    Australia became legally responsible to protect refugees from being returned to Sri Lanka the moment it intercepted them and transferred them to Australian vessels.

    India is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention and refugees are not granted protection in India.

    Reports that the asylum seekers may have had a satellite phone also does not diminish Australia's responsibility for the people intercepted.

    Australia's legal obligation is to anyone it exercises power or control over who is at risk of torture or fears being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a group or political opinion.

    What possessions refugees or people at risk of torture have or do not have is irrelevant to Australia's obligations to them.

    Both Labor and Coalition governments in recent times have attempted to justify their harsh asylum policies on the grounds that they save lives.

    This argument no longer holds when Australia places the lives of Tamil asylum seekers at risk by directly handing them over to a government they claim to be fleeing without first adequately assessing their safety.


    • #3
      US enlisted Sri Lanka for torture program

      US enlisted Sri Lanka through PM Ranil in 2003 for torture program
      Daya Gamage
      Fri, 2014-12-12

      Pieces are now coming to place to assemble the larger picture; 54 countries were enlisted by the United States to participate in its torture program; India categorically refused, and Sri Lanka was in it; Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe ( December 2001 through April 2004) was given an unusual gesture by the Bush administration: a guard of honor, normally reserved for a head of state, given to him at the Pentagon when he arrived for a meeting with deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz 03 November 2003; and an audience with President Bush at the White House the same day.

      Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe meets with US President George Bush at White House 03 November 2003

      It has now been disclosed that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, between August 12 and 15, 2003, covertly authorized the Katunayaka Bandaranaike International Airport for the use of the CIA as the transit point for its extra-rendition program - transfer without legal process - of detainees to the custody of either foreign governments well known for their torture practices for purposes of detention and interrogation or to hold in CIA prisons, also known as "Black Sites", outside the United States where they were subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" that involved torture and other abuse.

      The United States Senate Intelligence Committee's release on Tuesday of a searing report condemning the CIA's use of torture against suspected terrorists reignited the decade-old debate about how best to protect Americans from attack.

      A 500-page declassified summary of the 6,700-page report detailed the CIA's use of waterboarding and sleep deprivation on prisoners and told how detainees were chained in painful positions in the cold and dark secret overseas prisons.

      The New York-based Open Society Foundation said in a previous report "responsibility for this damage does not lie solely with the United States, but also with the numerous foreign governments without whose participation secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations could not have been carried out".

      And Sri Lanka government under prime minister Ranil Wickremasinghe was one such regime that bore responsibility for what the US Senate Intelligence Committee report discloses of grave human rights violations.

      At a time the former prime minister Wickremasinghe is leading a nation-wide campaign under the banner of 'Joint Opposition' to wrest political power at the forthcoming January 8 presidential election, the findings of the US Senate report and disclosures of the New York-based Open Society Foundation of America's torture regimen and extraordinary rendition program display the credentials of Mr. Wickremasinghe and his 'Joint Opposition; how well the United States could manipulate the Ranil-Chandrika-Maitripala coterie in the event they form a government on January 8 next year.

      Here's what is revealing:

      Sri Lanka is at a cross road:

      The United States Department of State has teamed up with a certain 'active' section of the Tamil Diaspora on a 'global program' that could eventually destabilize Sri Lanka. Those who are within this 'active' section were the same individuals who were very closely working with the Tamil Tiger separatists and their leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran to establish a separate independent Tamil nation in the north and east of the country. The only difference is that - since the domestic defeat of the militarist Tamil Tigers - the bifurcation of Sri Lanka has transformed into a global diplomatic campaign.

      Both the State Department and the professional activists within the Tamil Diaspora are using human rights, rule of law, good governance, war crimes and violation of IHL to destabilize the incumbent Rajapaksa government. The diplomatic efforts of the US Department of State have greatly encouraged and helped the professional activists' global campaign to isolate Sri Lanka; their final objective being an independent separate state for the minority Tamil community carved out from the north and east of Sri Lanka.

      It is interesting to note that 54% of the minority Tamils are domiciled outside of north and east in southern districts among the majority Sinhalese community with utmost peace and tranquility.

      With the disclosures in the US Senate Intelligence Committee report about 'extraordinary rendition' and torture, and the revelations that the Sri Lanka was enlisted by the CIA for the rendition program under the premiership of Ranil Wickremasinghe, one could imagine where the allegiance of the 'Joint Opposition' for Sri Lanka's presidency cum government lay.

      The Rajapaksa regime's stubborn effort to check the influence of Tamil Tiger operatives and the successful stalling of the State Department - Tiger operative endeavor to destabilize Sri Lanka will be totally destroyed should Ranil-Chandrika-Maitripala coalition gain power at the January 8 presidential poll.


      • #4
        No surprises here...
        Originally posted by Ergenburgensmurgen;n186588
        What are you talking about, I don't post on Teakdoor.


        • #5
          UK halts deportation of Sri Lankan torture victim
          Laura Hughes
          Mar 20, 2015

          Sri Lankan national flag.
          Pic: AP.


          • #6
            Sri Lanka 'War Crime' : U.S. doesn't rule out global probe
            Daya Gamage
            Fri, 2015-08-28

            If one very carefully scrutinized what the visiting U.S. State Department assistant secretaries pronounced in Colombo and Trincomalee this week about accountability - a very diplomatic term for war crimes - one could very easily comprehend that the United States has not ruled out an international mechanism to 'get the truth' of what happened during the final stages - April-May 2009 - of the intense military confrontation between the secessionist Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lanka military which ended with the death of thousands of unarmed Tamil civilians who were used by the Tigers as human fodder.

            The United States has been under severe pressure from its western allies - two of the prominent being Britain and Canada where couple of hundred thousand Sri Lanka Tamils have made those countries their permanent residence who have shown their 'electoral clout' at parliamentary elections - and the most vociferous and influential Tamil Diaspora activists and organizations who maintained close rapport with foreign policy decision-makers in the West before and after the war ended in Sri Lanka - to successfully revise their perspective toward Sri Lankan issues to advocate an international mechanism for accountability.

            Despite Sri Lanka and foreign media have underscored that the United States took a one hundred and eighty degree turn to allow Sri Lanka's new administration to use the domestic mechanism with no international intervention, the two state department officials - one with the South Asia portfolio and the other who holds the most important Human Rights - were very careful in using their phrases and words to give the subtle indication that Sri Lanka is not off the hook in abandoning the international mechanism that the state department itself initiated in 2012 at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

            The United States has not ruled out an international mechanism nor the intervention of the UNHRC.

            The officials of the state department - from the eighties through the New Millennium - who served at its diplomatic mission in Colombo and their counterparts in Washington - settled into a deep rooted mindset that successive Sri Lanka governments were controlled by Sinhalese nationalists, the minority Tamils were constantly physically harassed at frequent intervals, they were deprived of their rightful place in the Sri Lankan society in the areas of education and employment, they were severely obstructed in their path to upward mobility in the society and were subjected to political, economic and social suppression.

            They were also supportive of the Tamil concept that the north and east of Sri Lanka are traditional homeland to which, in June 2008, state department assistant secretary for South Asia Richard Boucher on his visit to Colombo openly endorsing the concept.

            With that perspective, the United States - as much as it wanted the LTTE defeated - never wanted it totally annihilated because of the serious belief that the Tiger movement epitomized the 'Tamil Aspirations' and resonated with the mindset of the minority Tamils, both in Sri Lanka and the diaspora, and that the unarmed/controlled LTTE could be used as a tool to effect changes in the governance of this South Asian nation.

            With this outlook intact, the state department never wanted to move away from the calamity that befell the unarmed innocent Tamils during the final two months of the intense military confrontation between the lethal Tiger cadre and the well-equipped Sri Lanka military.

            The visit this week of Nisha Biswal, the assistant secretary for South Asia and Tom Malinowski, the assistant secretary for human rights affairs who previously was a prominent advocate in the influential Human Rights Watch, was to inform the new Sirisena-Wickremasinghe administration that it can move forward with a domestic mechanism but clearly indicated in their chosen language that the international mechanism will continue to be in place.

            From the transcript released by the American Embassy in Colombo of the media briefing by assistant secretaries Biswal and Malinowski on Tuesday August 25, they said that the U.S. and the international community were "not going to walk away" from the accountability process.

            (Text) Press: Malinowski: the United States and the international community are not going to walk away from this in September, whatever the thrust of the resolution. International support, international involvement will continue because that is also an important way to continue building confidence and trust and that in turn will be good for the government because it will enable the government to have the space and the time it needs to confront these very difficult issues in a way that builds the broadest possible support within Sri Lankan society.

            Biswal: (End Text)
            Assistant Secretary Malinowski travelled to Trincomalee to meet with civil society activists and leaders followed by press interview with journalists on Wednesday August 26. We carry here the salient portion of his declarations taken from the transcript provided by the American Embassy.

            (Begin Text) Press: A/S Malinowski: The United States will sponsor another resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council in September and we are not going to walk away from this process of encouraging reform and change after September. We very much hope that with the changes after January 8th, the new government will work with us and work with the United Nations on a real process of accountability and reconciliation. The international community will remain involved in that process. It will continue to monitor that process. And as much as we are hopeful about the promises that the new government had made, we will judge it not by its promises but by its actions and achievements.

            Press: International probe on human rights violations is expected to be in favor of Tamil people. What is your opinion on this? In terms of the human rights violations that have occurred [inaudible] what is your stand?

            A/S Malinowski: (End Text)

            The two state department officials during their visit to Colombo never gave the assurance that the international community would end its involvement (or intervention) allow an 'un-interfered' domestic process to take effect. The events since the war was over in May 2009 it was apparent that the Tamil Diaspora global diplomatic network was too influential for the international community - in this case US, UK, Canada and Scandinavian nations - to ignore the Tamil call to go into the root cause of the thousand deaths of unarmed Tamil civilians. The state department use the fancy term 'Accountability' for 'War Crimes'.

            Sri Lanka at present faces this international scrutiny, and the international community and the UNHRC want answers who - why - what - when about the killings of civilians.

            The Asian Tribune in a previous report U.S. clears Sri Lanka of civilian deaths: Faults Tiger human shield carried in these columns ( on 14 August brought to the attention of the Government of Sri Lanka and other interested quarters citing the US Department of Defense issued June 2015 report Law of War Manual the importance of a diplomatic negotiation with the state department to clear Sri Lanka's alleged culpability for the civilian deaths on the basis of the United States declared position in the Manual on Human Shield and Civilian Killings.

            The Asian Tribune in that Media Note said "The interpretation of the 'Proportionality Law' in non-international war and the definition the Government of the United States declared on 'Human Shield' and 'Civilian Deaths' - in fact the language in the Manual - clears Sri Lanka's culpability of civilian deaths during the final month (April-May 2009) of the intense battle between the GSL military and the Tamil Tiger fighting cadre in the battle of Puthukkudiriyirippu in the banks of the Lagoon Nathikadal in the Sri Lanka District of Mullaitivu."

            Since the Eelam War IV was concluded, the US Department of State - in two reports released by its Office of Global Crimes - alleged the Sri Lanka military of discriminately using heavy military artillery which cause the deaths of unarmed civilians. Lobbied and forced by the professional activists within the Tamil Diaspora who were once providing 'material support' to the LTTE in its secessionist war against the legitimate government of Sri Lanka, the USG went far as the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva to bring resolutions against the GSL from 2010 through 2014. The theme of those resolutions was 'accountability for what occurred during the final months of the war which produced civilian deaths'.

            The Asian Tribune in fact noted that "The interpretations and definition provided by the US Department of Defense (DOD) in its latest Law of War Manual in fact absolves the Sri Lanka military of the 'war crime and genocide charges' blaming the non-state actor - the LTTE - in declaring[i]
            The Manual states that
            The Manual further states that[i]
            One of the most significant policy positions the USG has taken is when the DOD Manual states that[i]
            Quoting the US Government's Department of Defense Manual the Asian Tribune opined "When interpreting the scenario that prevailed during the final months of the Eelam War IV battle, the LTTE (defending force) 'allowed violations' using the human shield knowing full well that the attacking forces' (GSL Military) 'legal obligations could increase'."

            This is how the Manual gives the USG 'official position' on 'Human Shields' and 'Civilian Deaths'. The DOD declares the USG policy plank that it is unfair for defending forces to intentionally trigger the legal obligations of the attacking force, through unlawful conduct, as a means of obtaining tactical advantage. The state department and EU nations have gone on record that the LTTE use of human shield was wrong urging the secessionist movement to allow the unarmed civilians to move toward the NFZ for safety.

            Robert O. Blake, one time US ambassador to Sri Lanka, in an interview with the WRVO Radio, Syracuse, New York as assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs at the state department in its widely listened Campbell Conversation on 28 January 2011 said the following on human shield and civilian killings.

            (Begin Transcript) Assistant Secretary Blake:Question:Assistant Secretary Blake: (End Transcript)

            Under Protected Persons and Objects, the US Defense Department Law of War Manual says:

            (Quote) In particular, the civilian population, protected persons under the GC, POWs,
            fixed medical establishments and medical units, para-paramilitaries and other persons protected by a flag of truce, and cultural property are protected persons and objects that may not be used.

            "Although persons and objects that are protected by the law of war may not be used in
            these ways, this rule does not prohibit a party from using what would otherwise be a civilian object for military purposes and thereby converting it to a military objective that is not protected by the law of war.

            "For example, a building that previously was a civilian object could be used for military purposes (including as cover) and would not implicate this rule because it would no longer be a protected object. (End Quote)

            It was widely known to the International Community that the LTTE converted hospitals and make-shift medical units as military objectives to attack the GSL military forces during the final month of the battle.

            The U.S. position is that the LTTE was not prohibited "from using what would otherwise be a civilian object for military purposes and thereby converting it to a military objective", and then the Manual declares once such a civilian facility was converted to a military objective that facility "is not protected by the law of war".

            Which is why the Manual determines "For example, a building that previously was a civilian object could be used for military purposes (including as cover) and would not implicate this rule because it would no longer be a protected object".

            The DOD Manual further interprets the law of war under Protected Persons or Objects to Deter Enemy Military Operations in this manner:

            (Quote) (End Quote)

            The US Department of State throughout knew that the LTTE was using unarmed civilians as human shield, converted medical facilities as military objectives. Going by the language of the Manual, If the United States Government position of the use of unarmed civilians as human shield, it can be interpreted that the LTTE, attacking forces in this instance the GSL military forces; and converting civilian facilities such as make-shift hospitals and existing hospitals into military objectives, such facilities are "not protected by the law of war".

            The Asian Tribune in that 14 August Media Note reiterated that the Government of Sri Lanka needs to give serious note of the interpretations, determinations and policy declarations of the Government of the United States on the law of war in the Department of Defense' Law of War Manual to frustrate the efforts of the United States aimed at making Sri Lanka responsible for the deaths of unarmed innocent Tamil civilians killed during the final months of the battle. The State Department's Office of Global Crimes in two reports made Sri Lanka mainly responsible for those killings while accusing the LTTE of using unarmed civilians as human shield.

            Why Sri Lanka needs to bring up this issue a fresh because of the official position adopted by the United States through the DOD Manual. The interpretations, determinations and policy declarations in the Manual clearly absolves Sri Lanka of incidents that occurred during the final months of the battle.

            The Government of Sri Lanka should immediately use its diplomatic channels to clear its name with the US Department of State based on the deliberations found in the 1204-page DOD Manual which can be found at

            Since the two state department assistant secretaries have not ruled out international mechanism, and the civilian deaths could be a prominent issues for the international community and the UNHRC, the GSL needs to act promptly to get Sri Lanka's name cleared in Washington on the basis of the US Department of Defense' declared policy reflected in its Law of War Manual.



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