Qatari authorities deported a Tamil man to Sri Lanka this week despite the threats of torture; where the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) arrested him for allegedly “promoting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)”.
41-year-old Pakyathurai Naguleshwaran, a native of Trincomalee, fled to Qatar in 2019, though the Sri Lankan authorities have been searching for him since. In pursuit of Naguleshwaran, Sri Lankan authorities requested assistance from Interpol, who issued a Blue Notice against him.
He was arrested after arriving from Qatar following the completion of 14 days of quarantine at the Mulliyawalai Quarantine Center in Trincomalee. A police spokesperson said that a case will be filed against the person in question under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and he will be detained for further investigation.
Torture and the PTA
Last month, a landmark decision from a British tribunal found that Tamils who engage in a range of political activities in the United Kingdom faced “a real risk of ill-treatment or harm” if deported to Sri Lanka. Previously, only those who had a “significant role” in Tamil activism overseas faced the risk of persecution on the island however, the new ruling in the UK expanded the criteria to include a range of activities from posting on social media to attendance at commemorative events and even signing petitions that could be “perceived as being anti-government.”
According to the International Truth and Justice Project, there have been 178 documented credible cases of torture from 2015-2018, excluding 22 individuals abroad who reported torture following the UN special investigation. Since Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power in late 2019, at least 5 cases have been documented abroad of abduction, torture, and sexual violence of Tamils. The ITJP notes, "this likely represents the tip of the iceberg".
Commenting on Sri Lanka's continued use of torture, Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian, M.A Sumanthiran, highlighted how the introduction of the PTA opened the floodgates to torture by making confessions to police officers admissible evidence.
“All you had to do was beat up a fellow, or do worse, and get his signature, you have solved the crime. The real culprit is still roaming free”, Sumanthiran notes.
Despite the previous administration committing to repeal the draconian PTA, the Rajapaksa administration has since withdrawn this commitment. Last month the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning Sri Lanka's continued use of the PTA and ongoing human rights violations whilst recommending the withdrawal of the GSP+ trading arrangements.