EU court overturns Tamil Tiger sanctions but maintains asset freeze
(Reuters) – European Union judges struck down anti-terrorism sanctions against the Tamil Tigers that were imposed by the EU but said on Thursday that the assets of the Sri Lankan group should remain frozen for the time being.
The court said a decision by EU leaders in 2006 to place the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on a list of terrorist organisations had been based on “imputations derived from the press and the Internet” rather than on direct investigation of the group’s actions, as required by law.
It said in a statement that the EU had also failed, when following Indian sanctions against the Tigers, to ensure that India gave sufficient judicial protection to those it accused.
However, the court rejected the LTTE’s contention that it was exempt from EU anti-terrorism legislation because it was engaged in an “armed conflict” with the Sri Lankan government and bound by the laws of war. The court, which stressed it was taking no view on whether the LTTE was a terrorist organisation, said EU laws on terrorism also applied to armed conflicts.
Saying that sanctions might be applied in future against the Tigers, who were defeated militarily in 2009, the court said assets that were frozen should remain so “temporarily”.
Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Ministry said in a statement the government was ready to provide information to justify designating the LTTE as a terrorist organization.
“It is noteworthy that a number of EU member countries have carried out investigations against LTTE activists in their territories, some of which are ongoing, while some have resulted in the accused being sentenced by court,” the ministry said.
It also said the court decision may affect the security of Sri Lankans living in EU territory and EU citizens of Sri Lankan origin, who are likely to come under pressure once again by pro-LTTE activists.
Sri Lanka has tightened security in the former war zone in the north of the country after its military in April killed three ethnic Tamil separatists who the army said had attempted to revive the terrorist outfit.
Higher military officials have told Reuters that funds from some EU member countries have been sent to those who are trying to instigate renewed violence in the heavily militarised north.
(Reporting by Alastair Macdonald in Brussels and Shihar Aneez in Colombo; Editing by Dominic Evans, Larry King)
READ THE FULL JUDGEMENT HERE
Sri Lanka concerned at EU court ruling
The Government of Sri Lanka has noted with concern the decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 16th October, to annul the EU regulations proscribing the LTTE. The defendants of this case have been the Council and Commission of the European Union, together with two member states, the Netherlands and the UK.
Expectedly, the ECJ judgment requires in-depth study by all the defendant parties. It is noteworthy that the Court has stressed the annulments to be “on fundamentally procedural grounds” and “do not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of the LTTE as a terrorist group.” Further it is observed from the decision of the ECJ that “the effects of the annulled measures are maintained temporarily in order to ensure the effectiveness of any possible future freezing of funds”.
Conscious of the fact that the listing of the LTTE is a matter internal to the EU, Sri Lanka is confident that the European Commission and the EU Member States will take the best possible decision on the future course of action to be taken in this regard, in accordance with their own legal architecture in preserving sovereignty.
The EU proscribed the LTTE as a terrorist organization in May 2006, and has remained on its list of terrorist entities ever since. Apart from the EU, the LTTE is proscribed as a terrorist organization in the USA, India, Canada, the UK and Sri Lanka.
The Government of Sri Lanka has fully supported the EU in its listing of the LTTE and has periodically provided information supportive of the regulation and also with a view to facilitate the Commission’s defence in the ECJ. The Government remains committed to provide to the European Commission and EU Member States, any further assistance and information available, to maintain the LTTE as a brutal terrorist organization.
It is noteworthy that a number of EU member countries have carried out investigations against LTTE activists in their territories, some of which are ongoing, while some have resulted in the accused being sentenced by Court.
Sri Lanka is further mindful that the ECJ decision may have an impact including from a security perspective, on the large majority of Sri Lankans living in EU territory, as well as EU citizens of Sri Lankan origin, who are likely to come under pressure once again by pro LTTE activists.
Ministry of External Affairs
16 October 2014