URGENT—CALL FOR ACTION Deportation of Sri Lankan Asylum Seeker with pending UN Torture Investigation

URGENT—CALL FOR ACTION

Deportation of Sri Lankan Asylum Seeker with pending UN Torture Investigation

17/07/2012

This afternoon, a Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seeker who was tortured in Sri Lanka and is currently the victim in a pending investigation by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture informed RISE that he was suddenly moved from the community into Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre pending his forced removal from Australia.

In October 2011, a communication was sent on behalf of the asylum seeker (“Mr X”) to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The office of the Special Rapporteur took immediate interest in Mr X’s case, writing to the Australian government seeking urgent clarification and importantly stating:

I urge your Excellency’s Government to take all necessary measures to guarantee that the rights and freedoms of Mr. X are respected and, in the event that your investigations support or suggest the above allegations [of torture] to be correct, the accountability of any person responsible for the alleged violations should be ensured. I also request that your Excellency’s Government adopt effective measures to prevent the recurrence of these acts.

The Australian government never responded to this urgent request. Instead, preparations were commenced for Mr X’s removal from Australia. Mr. X was informed that he would be assisted by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to voluntarily return to Sri Lanka.  However, IOM has no protection mandate.  Furthermore monitoring agencies with a protection mandate, such as the UNHCR, ICRC and the Sri Lankan Human rights commission, are prevented from accessing a number of detention centres in Sri Lanka.

Ramesh Fernandez says, “throughout the time that RISE has worked with Mr X he has continued to receive extensive medical treatment in relation to the psychological and physical effects of torture and trauma.  Mr. X is being removed to Sri Lanka forcibly with the Department of Immigration’s full knowledge of his condition”.  It should be noted that in September 2011 a report was published in the British Medical Journal saying that doctors in Sri Lanka are complicit in torture by failing to report the victims of torture.

At the UNCAT’s (UN committee against torture) 47th session in Geneva, in November 2011, during which there was an open session on the prevalence of torture and ill treatment in Sri Lanka, organisations such as UK freedom from torture and Amnesty International have provided evidence that Tamils continue to be at risk of torture, killings and arbitrary and indefinite detention under the prevention of terrorism act even after May 2009, when the Sri Lankan government declared victory over the Tamil militants.  In May 2012, the British High court overturned removal orders of scores of Sri Lankans from the UK after evidence was presented before the court that those forcibly returned to Sri Lanka face arbitrary arrest and torture. RISE received reports from NGOs on the ground in Sri Lanka that the number of abductions and killings have increased this year in Sri Lanka.

The removal of Mr X in these circumstances constitutes a breach of the non-refoulement obligations under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It indicates a disturbing disregard for the lives of Sri Lankan asylum seekers, and a flagrant disrespect for ongoing processes under international law, on the part of the Australian government.

RISE urges all recipients and all those concerned regarding the fate of Sri Lankan asylum seekers to petition the Australian government, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, and the Department of Immigration to halt the forced removal in Mr X’s case.

We urgently ask you to contact Minister Bowen and ask him to stop the deportation.

Phone the Immigration Minister now:  (02) 6277 7860 or Email: minister@immi.gov.au  

You can also contact your member in the House of Representatives and ask them to take action. Find your member here.