The Australian government has reached a frightening new low as a human rights’ denier and perpetrator, the Tamil Refugee Council said today.
“Australia’s moral, ethical and legal compass has been lost at sea,” said Tamil Refugee Council spokesman Trevor Grant.
“Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s claim today that Sri Lanka is ‘a society at peace’ is not just baseless but a deliberate lie, cynically presented to the Australian public for one reason; to support his indefensible, illegal policy of sending back Tamil asylum-seekers to Sri Lanka.
“The timing of his statement today on Melbourne radio is clearly linked to the credible media reports about his Immigration Minister’s abhorrent act of secretly sending back a boatload of Tamil asylum-seekers to the certainty of a Sri Lankan jail and the probability of rape and torture.
“Media reports this week have said that 153 Tamil asylum-seekers on the boat have almost certainly been sent back to Sri Lanka. Also, it has been reported that people have had their refugee claims assessed in brief teleconference calls on a boat that was involved in sending them back.
“These actions not only breach Australia’s legal responsibilities under international law but put our nation into the category of gross violators of human rights.
“Sadly this is the path Abbott has been on since he infamously condoned torture in Sri Lanka in a speech at the CHOGM conference in Colombo last November, saying ‘difficult things happen in difficult circumstances.’
“Now, in the face of damning evidence that Sri Lanka is on a genocidal path against Tamils, Abbott declares the country is at peace simply to support his ‘whatever-it-takes’ intention to stop asylum-seekers from reaching our shores.
“Australia’s appalling alignment with the brutal Rajapaksa regime, which includes the supply of boats to stop asylum-seekers from fleeing persecution, is trashing our international reputation. We are now seen as a country not just ignoring massive human rights’ abuses but also as an active, eager facilitator of
A SOCIETY AT PEACE? THE FACTS ARE:
- Abbott says Sri Lanka is ‘a society at peace’ yet his own Foreign Affairs department latest travel advisory, issued last month, says: “We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution due to the unpredictable security environment.”
- The Sri Lankan government is currently under investigation by the UN for war crimes and crimes against humanity, accused of the pre-mediated murder of as many as 70,000 innocent Tamil civilians at the end of the civil war in 2009. The Sri Lankan government has refused to co-operate with the investigation and has threatened to prosecute any of its citizens who give evidence.
- Under Abbott, Australia refused to join its traditional allies such as the US and UK in supporting the investigation. Instead it has aligned itself with the likes of China and Russia in trying to block any independent investigations into these war crimes.
- Torture and rape are common occurrences in post-war Sri Lanka, as documented in many reports. Human Rights Watch last year detailed 75 cases of rape and sexual torture of men, women and children in custody, almost half of them had taken place since the war ended and about a third had been citizens returning to the country. The UK Foreign secretary, William Hague, announced last month his government was investigating the rape and sexual torture of returned Tamil asylum-seekers.
- The Sri Lankan military has increased in size since the end of the war. There is a military occupation in the Tamil homelands in the north, with one soldier for every five people.
For further information contact Tamil Refugee Council on 0400 597 351.