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UK must suspend deportation of Tamils to Sri Lanka - Sonya Sceats

The British government must suspend deportations to Sri Lanka, “to ensure that we do not deliver anyone into [Mahinda] Rajapaksa’s lethal hands”, the chief executive of Freedom from Torture has said, echoing calls from British MPs earlier this week.

Writing in The Observer this week, chief executive Sonya Sceats said “President Maithripala Sirisena, [Rajapaksa’s] successor, was never the human rights champion he claimed to be, and it was foolish of western governments to buy this lie.”

“On no account should the UK send people back [to Sri Lanka] to the risk of torture and ill-treatment there, as it has repeatedly done before,” Sceats writes.

“There is probably no person on Earth more responsible than Rajapaksa for the broken lives that Freedom from Torture attempts to fix at our torture treatment centres in the UK. For seven years running, Sri Lanka has been the top country of origin for people referred to us.”

“Rajapaksa built his torture machinery to last and the truth is that Sirisena has kept it well oiled. Should Rajapaksa return to high office, the merest of nods would suffice for his old operatives, many of whom are still in the system, to crank it up again. Military and police chiefs are reportedly already paying visits to him.”

“The official antipathy towards the Tamil diaspora was displayed earlier this year by a Sri Lankan defence attaché caught on film making a throat-slitting gesture to Tamil protesters in London. This was not an empty threat.”

“The clear and present risk of escalating repression and our specific evidence of torture on return from the UK requires a halt to removals and an urgent review of the Home Office’s asylum policy on Sri Lanka to match our evidence of who is likely to be targeted.”

“Tamil survivors in treatment always resented pressure from western diplomats to dampen their demands for international justice in the interests of peace. They knew this would mean no justice at all and the risk that those most responsible for atrocities would regroup and plunge the country back into chaos. Sirisena’s pact with Rajapaksa proves them right.”

“More diplomacy is needed to restore the rule of law and hold Sri Lanka to the deal it struck at the UN to underpin the peace. But a moratorium on removals is a simple step for the UK to take now to ensure that we do not deliver anyone into Rajapaksa’s lethal hands,” Sceats concludes.