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UAE urged not to deport Tamil journalist

Human rights groups are urging the UAE not to deport Tamil journalist Rathimohan Lokini to Sri Lanka.

The former presenter for the National Television of Tamileelam (NTT), a channel which broadcasted nationally and internationally from the Vanni before 2009, left the island in 2008.

Lokini, who has UN refugee status, would be at “grave risk of torture” if returned, says Human Rights Watch.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) also expressed concern about the fate of Lokini and 18 other refugees who are due to be deported to Sri Lanka.

“In the light of recent developments and the appalling climate for the Tamil media in Sri Lanka, we are extremely worried about the consequences of a forced return for Rathimohan Lokini’s safety,” the organisations said in a joint statement.

“Our concern is heightened by the fact that the Sri Lankan state TV station ITN has reported that they could be sent back, so the government is aware of the possibility and Lokini would be exposed to serious reprisals.

“We therefore urge the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to do everything possible to prevent this expulsion, which would constitute a total violation of international law and the right protection that the UN Refugee Agency granted to Lokini.”

The statement further said that her visibility, reporting on clashes between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan military, “exposed her to a considerable risk of reprisals” by government forces and pro-government militia.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also expressed "deep concern" about the reports.

"Sri Lanka remains a perilous place for Tamil journalists," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney.

"The UAE authorities must take this into consideration and immediately halt any plans to deport Lohini Rathimohan."

Lohini says she fled Sri Lanka after the government killed several of her colleagues, reported the Voice of America.

"The situation is a very, very big problem. We are afraid, very afraid,

"No final result [was given] to me. What will happen to our cases, I don’t know,"  she said.

The former journalist has relatives in the UK and the British government could, at its discretion, consider these relatives to constitute a 'close connection' and agree to take her into the UK.

12 members of the same group have already been taken in by the US, with another 6 accepted by Sweden, while the remaining 18 refugees are still seeking countries to accept them.

See notes on their legal position by Tamils Against Genocide here.

Tamil Refugees in UAE Face Deportation - Voice of America (10 Mar 2013)

UAE urged not to deport Sri Lanka journalist Lohini - BBC (10 Mar 2013)

HRW: Don’t send Tamil refugees back to Sri Lanka - Tamil Guardian (06 Mar 2013)

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