High Court Recognises Importance of Freedom from Torture Research as Tamils Face Removal from UK

Up to 60 people – many of them refused Tamil asylum seekers – are due to be forcibly removed from the UK this afternoon on a charter flight organised by the UK Border Agency.

The flight looks set to go ahead despite mounting evidence that any Tamils with an actual or perceived association with the LTTE are at risk of torture on return. However, at least 3 Tamils who were due to be on today's flight have been granted court injunctions in the last 48 hours preventing their removal and more hearings are scheduled today.

Freedom from Torture was granted permission to intervene in yesterday's injunction proceedings given our new evidence relating to 24 individuals who were tortured in Sri Lanka after returning voluntarily from the UK and our efforts since early August to warn the UK government about these problems. The High Court welcomed our 'carefully drafted' and 'detailed' research and, for the purposes of injunctions, accepted our finding that Tamils with a real or perceived association with the LTTE 'at any level' are at risk of torture on return. Two injunctions were granted yesterday on this basis.

'Kajan' – whose name has been changed to protect his identity – is one of the cases contained in Freedom from Torture's briefing. He was first detained around five years ago by the Sri Lankan police on suspicion of LTTE membership – his father was a former LTTE member and had remained a supporter. Over the course of a week, Kajan was badly beaten and was burned with a hot metal rod before his mother paid a bribe for him to be released. Nearly two years later he applied for a student visa to study in the UK.

In late 2011, during the course of his studies, Kajan returned to Sri Lanka for a short period to attend a funeral. Shortly after arriving he was arrested by the police and detained for about three weeks. During this time he was tortured and interrogated about his association with the LTTE years earlier and his more recent activities whilst a student in the UK.

Specifically, he was accused of taking part in Heroes Remembrance Days and being involved with a campaign in London against the Sri Lankan government. His interrogators also alleged that Kajan was involved with attempting to revive the LTTE and collecting money for its activities. He was burned with a heated object on his back and was beaten with PVC pipe. On one occasion his head was repeatedly submerged into a large bucket filled with water by two men.

His uncle paid a bribe to secure his release and safe passage through Colombo Airport, and he returned to the UK on his student visa and claimed asylum. Kajan was referred to Freedom from Torture for a medico-legal report which forensically documented his torture-related injuries. He was granted refugee status earlier this year after the UKBA withdrew its initial decision to refuse asylum just before his appeal hearing. Keith Best said:

Kajan's case is a shocking example of the punishment that awaits Sri Lankan Tamils returning from the UK if there is any hint of association with the LTTE. The High Court acknowledged this wider problem yesterday when it used Freedom from Torture's research as a basis for blocking removals on today's flight"

Freedom from Torture's Head of Doctors, Dr Juliet Cohen, was interviewed on Channel 4 News last night about the risk faced by Tamils arriving back in Sri Lanka from the UK as refused asylum seekers, meanwhile the Independent has today printed an interview with a woman who was forcibly returned to torture in Sri Lanka by the UK following the end of the civil war in 2009.

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