Exclusive Tamil Tiger ban to be challenged in secretive British court
The Tamil Eelam flag flies in front of the Houses of Parliament in May 2009 BRITAIN’S terrorism ban on the Tamil Tigers will be challenged a decade after the rebel group was militarily defeated in Sri Lanka’s civil war, lawyers have said.
A tribunal will hear evidence later this year from a group of exiles who are calling on the Home Office to lift the ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The government department wants much of the case to be heard in secret at the seldom-used Proscribed Organisations Appeals Commission.
In 2014 the European Court of Justice said an EU ban on the Tamils should be scrapped. Britain was one of the few EU member states that sent lawyers to Luxembourg in an unsuccessful attempt to maintain the continent-wide ban.
Tamil activists in London are now focusing their efforts on the ban in Britain, which remains in force.
The challenge has been lodged by the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), which is represented by Professor Conor Gearty of Matrix Chambers.
The TGTE said that the ban has a chilling effect on Tamils demanding self-determination.
The deproscription process is notoriously tough, although the International Sikh Youth Federation was unbanned in 2016, meaning that membership of the Sikh separatist group is no longer an offence in Britain.
WHY WERE THE TAMIL TIGERS BANNED? The Westminster Parliament voted to outlaw the Tamil Tigers in 2000, a move that was opposed by Jeremy Corbyn at the time.
Britain and the United States then lobbied the EU to pass a European-wide ban in 2005 at a time when there was a ceasefire in Sri Lanka.
International peacekeepers criticised the terrorism bans on the rebel group, saying that they jeopardised a negotiated settlement.
The ceasefire soon collapsed and the Tigers were finally routed in May 2009 in a military offensive which at its peak saw a thousand Tamils dying each day from government shelling.
Research by the Morning Star has found that the Crown Prosecution Service did not bring charges against anyone last year for membership or support of the LTTE.
However, the ban is being used by police at airports to detain and harass Tamil activists — in March, the Morning Star reported the arrest of musician Vakeesan Thangavel at Heathrow airport hours before he was due to perform at a UN summit in Switzerland.
The total number of Tamils stopped under the Terrorism Act 2000 is unknown.
Police forces in Hampshire, Sussex, Essex, Kent and the West Midlands have all refused to answer freedom of information requests about their use of the power.
Link: Morning Star