The International Council of Eelam Tamils in a press release has strongly condemned an incident in which Tamil activists were detained and arrested during a peaceful protest outside the Oxford Union, where a speech was being delivered by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
The full text of the press release is as follows:
On October 8, 2018, reports indicate, the activists were detained and arrested during a peaceful protest outside the Oxford Union, where a speech was being delivered by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Police reportedly invoked Sections 43 and 45 of the Terrorism Act 2000, justifying their action on suspicion that the activists were members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
According to the Government of Sri Lanka, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam do not exist in any form, neither are they active nor presenting a danger to anyone.
Every people in this world represent itself with its own flag, as it is in the United Kingdom, where the peoples of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, each represent themselves with their own flag.
Arresting Tamil activists for holding their own flag, which represents their identity, in the name of counter-terrorism, raises questions about democracy and the rights of people to protest.
Reports similarly indicate that seven police officers from Scotland Yard’s Counter-Terrorism Command searched the house of the activist, without a warrant for four hours, in search of links to support this allegation.
We thank the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPGT) for its prompt and appropriate reaction to these events.
We agree that the circumstances of this arrest, which appears to have been made pursuant to the request of Sri Lankan officials who were filming the protest, merit investigation by the British Home Secretary.
Official reports and evidence from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and other international NGOs show that the Sri Lankan state is continuing its politics of destroying the fundamental livelihood of the Tamil people on the island of Sri Lanka.
Since Sri Lanka’s 1977 general elections, the Tamil Nation has repeatedly affirmed its wish to democratically exercise their right of self-determination.Sri Lanka has been repeatedly censured by international bodies, such as the UN Human Rights Council, for allegations of torture, enforced disappearances, and war crimes. Many further allege that several acts committed during and after the conflict of 1983-2009 fulfill the legal criteria of war crimes, crimes against humanity, including genocide.
Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom co-sponsored UNHRC Resolution 30/1, extended by Resolution 34/1, “promoting reconciliation, accountability, and human rights in Sri Lanka”. With 34/1’s expiry looming in March, 2019, Sri Lanka has yet to meaningfully implement any of its agreed obligations. This failure to address legitimate grievances—despite the UK’s official encouragement to do so—justifies peaceful protest within the UK against Sri Lankan representatives. Meanwhile, the invitation of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickramasingha and Basil Rajapaska to the United Kingdom, raises questions on the neutrality of the United Kingdom toward the UNHRC resolutions,as regards accountability and justice for the people.
Advocacy of Tamil human rights with respect to the Sri Lankan government is not a criminal act. Due process, the rule of law, and the fundamental freedoms of assembly and political expression, form the cornerstones of every democratic society. All people, regardless of political affiliation or where they reside, are entitled to these rights.
The International Council of Eelam Tamils calls upon the Government of Great Britain to ensure that democratic rights and the right to protest and protect their identity of every people are respected on UK soil without exception.Furthermore, as co-sponsors of the UNHRC resolutions, the government should ensure that Sri Lanka respects its promise it made by co-sponsoring UNHRC Resolution 30/1 by March 2019.