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New risk factor in Sri Lankan cases

New risk factor in Sri Lankan cases

The Swiss Federal Administrative Court has addressed risk to Sri Lankan Tamils facing enforced removal in a new judgment recently reported by UNHCR. The judgment is in French but the UNHCR summary in English states as follows:

[P]olitical opponents, critical journalists, human rights activists, critical NGO representatives, as well as victims of or witnesses to serious human rights violations and persons who are presumed to have close contacts to the LTTE represented groups are still at risk of persecution in Sri Lanka. In general, returns to Sri Lanka including the East and North are considered reasonable, with the exception of Vanni region where no returns should take place. For persons who left the northern province some time ago, the existence of social network and chances for securing minimal living conditions should be considered.

What is significant is the addition of one new risk elements that do not feature in the existing UK authorities. This category is victims of or witnesses to war crimes. Returns to Vanni are considered unreasonable but it will be said in the UK that return will be to Colombo. The applicability of internal relocation will therefore be in issue.

In the lead up to the defeat of the LTTE the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office estimated that 300,000 Tamil civilians were interned. There are many reports of civilian casualties. The UN Panel of Experts found that allegations of systematic war crimes and crimes against humanity were credible. Therefore all those who were present in former LTTE territories, Killinochchi and especially Mullaithivu, who suffered indiscriminate shelling, lost family members as a result, for example, ought to succeed as a result of this judgment.

Given the international nature of refugee law and increasing use of cross-jurisdictional authorities this judgment ought to be highly persuasive.

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