Earlier this month, the Swiss Federal Office of Migration (FOM) suspended all deportations to Sri Lanka pending an investigation into reports by NGOs that returned Sri Lankan nationals are being arrested and tortured by Sri Lankan authorities. The Swiss Embassy in Colombo is also investigating the recent arrest of two returnees, and has requested information from the Sri Lankan authorities concerning the arrest, detention conditions and health of the detainees.

Last week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of R.J. v. France (no. 10466/11) ruled that France would violate Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (prevention of torture and inhuman treatment) if the applicant of Tamil ethnic origin is forcibly returned to Sri Lanka, due to medical evidence of past physical abuse.

The Tamil had sought asylum in France on 2 February 2011, claiming persecution by the Sri Lankan authorities due to his origin and his political activities in support of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He claimed he was arrested and subjected to physical abuse while in detention. The day after he arrived in France, the applicant obtained a medical certificate that purported to demonstrate evidence of physical abuse. On 7 June 2011, the French Agency for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) rejected his asylum application. The Strasbourg Court found that the French government had failed to effectively rebut the strong presumption of treatment contrary to Article 3, raised by the medical certificate.

UNHCR’s eligibility guidelines on Sri Lanka published on 21 December 2012 report ongoing human rights concerns about post-conflict violence, torture and mistreatment, disappearances, arbitrary detention and freedom of expression.

Revealingly, Sri Lanka was the top country of origin for people referred to Freedom from Torture in the UK for torture rehabilitation and forensic documentation services in 2012.

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This article originally appeared in ECRE Weekly Bulletin 27 September 2013.

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