Rehabilitating Tamil detainees faces legal snag

jail2The Sri Lankan government’s plan to send for rehabilitation and eventual release 217 Tamils detained for alleged links with the LTTE, has run into legal difficulties, the New Indian Express reported.

On November 17, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP, M.A.Sumanthiran, had said that government would send the first batch for rehabilitation in ten days. But according to the Minister of National Dialogue, Mano Ganeshan, there may be a delay on account of the fact that some prisoners have more than one case against them. A prisoner might be qualified for rehabilitation and release in one case, but not in another, he explained.

“We are discussing this issue with the Attorney General to find a way out. In a week or so, it may be sorted out,” Ganeshan told Express on Tuesday.

Kumaravadivel Guruparan of the Jaffna University Law Faculty and leader of the Tamil Civil Society Forum, says in his Facebook post that it may not be possible to send the prisoners for rehabilitation because they are not “surrendees” (a term used in Sri Lankan law). They had been captured or arrested against their will, and hence, do not come under the law governing rehabilitation and release of LTTE cadres, which says that rehabilitation is open only to “surrendees”.

Guruparan points out that in 2011, the Rajapaksa government sent 12,000 LTTE cadres for a 12 month rehabilitation course and released them after that, under a freshly made provision in the Prevention of Terrorism Act. As per the new Prevention of Terrorism (Care and Rehabilitation) Regulations No: 5 of 2011, only those who had “voluntarily surrendered” to the police or the armed forces or a public official, and had stated his intention to surrender in writing, are eligible to be considered for rehabilitation.

But in the case of the 217 detained LTTE suspects currently being considered for rehabilitation, nobody had “voluntarily surrendered to the authorities,” Guruparan points out.

Apparently, the regulations will have to be changed to enable these to undergo rehabilitation.

Tamil lawyers point out that if a prisoner says he has “surrendered”, it means he is accepting the charge that he had worked for the LTTE, when, so far, he has been maintaining that he had not worked for the LTTE.

The lawyers also say that even after rehabilitation and release, an ex-detainee could be hounded and arrested. This is the reason why the prisoners have been seeking a “Presidential Amnesty” which will close the cases against them irrevocably.

And for this they had gone on an indefinite fast. The fast was called off only when the government put forward the Rehabilitation and Release Plan. In mid-November, 85 of the 217 detainees had sought rehabilitation in writing.


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