The advocacy group Human Rights Watch has condemned a move by the Sri Lankan government to freeze the assets of 16 Diaspora Tamil organizations, including the London-based British Tamil Forum and the Global Tamil Forum.
On 4 April, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Affairs Minister Professor G L Peiris made public the order which also places a freeze on financial resources of more than 400 individuals linked to the proscribed groups.
HRW said in a statement on Tuesday that most of the organizations listed in the order were either defunct or legitimate groups engaged in peaceful political activity.
Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW, said the decision to label these organizations as “terrorist groups” amounted to a modern version of “McCarthyism”.
“The Sri Lankan government is using vague counterterrorism regulations to tie the major diaspora Tamil groups to the ruthless but defunct LTTE”, said Mr Adams.
“This broad-brush sanction could then be used to punish local Tamil activists and politicians with international ties. The government is putting all Tamil activists at risk by delegitimizing the major Tamil organizations abroad.
Among the groups named in the parliamentary gazette is the LTTE, which was militarily defeated by the Sri Lankan government in 2009 after a bloody thirty-year conflict.
Other groups include the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, World Tamil Relief Fund and the ‘Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam’ – a so-called Tamil ‘government in exile’ – as well as groups and individuals in Britain, Canada, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Australia.
Under Sri Lanka’s often draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act, individuals associated with the groups can face imprisonment and legal action.
HRW has called on the Sri Lankan government to provide evidence of the unlawful activity of specific groups and individuals or remove them from the list.
Sri Lanka’s United Nations Regulation No. 1 of 2012 empowers the government to designate individuals, groups or entities believed to “commit or attempt to commit or participate in or facilitate the commission of, terrorist acts” and freeze their financial assets and economic resources.
The Resolution was passed by the UN Security Council in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the United States and requires and requires countries to freeze assets and entities of those “who commit or attempt to commit terrorist acts or participate in or facilitate the commission of terrorist acts.”
The government’s order however, provides no factual basis for its actions, HRW said, adding that the UN Resolution has been widely abused by governments around the world to create “vague and overbroad definitions of terrorist activity and curtail basic rights”.
The government’s order however, provides no factual basis for its actions, HRW said.
The asset freeze comes just weeks after the United Nations Human Rights Council voted for an investigation into alleged rights abuses by the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE in the final weeks of the Civil War in 2009, when tens of thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed.