June 16, 2011

Dear Home Secretary,
Dear Foreign Secretary,

I am writing regarding information we have received that the British government plans to deport a number of rejected asylum seekers to Sri Lanka on June 16, 2011. We believe that Sri Lankan nationals who have been affiliated with or are considered to be supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), would be at significant risk of persecution if deported back to Sri Lanka. We do not know if such persons are among those being deported, but would urge you to ensure that they are not, given the risk.

Human Rights Watch is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights worldwide. We have closely monitored the human rights situation in Sri Lanka for more than two decades and have published numerous reports on the widespread practice of enforced disappearance, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, and serious violations of the laws of war.

Our research shows that Sri Lankan authorities have frequently violated the basic rights of people suspected of being affiliated with or supporters of the LTTE. Since the final months of the war between the government and the LTTE, which ended in May 2009, the authorities detained some 12,000 suspected LTTE members in so-called rehabilitation centres, denying them basic due process rights. We documented this practice in our January 2010 report "Legal Limbo," which can be accessed at https://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2010/02/02/legal-limbo-0.

Others suspected of being affiliated with the LTTE have spent considerable time in detention in regular detention facilities without being formally charged. We have documented several cases in which those suspected of being affiliated with the LTTE were subjected to torture and ill-treatment.

Emergency powers still in place more than two years after the fighting ended give security force wide powers to indefinitely detain individuals considered to be affiliated to the LTTE. Law-enforcement agencies continue to abuse these powers.

We believe the UK should adopt a very cautious approach in returning rejected Sri Lankan asylum seekers until the government demonstrates that it will respect the rights of such individuals.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.

Brad Adams
Executive Director
Asia Division

David Mepham
UK Director