"Mere association" insufficient to prove membership, says Canada Refugee board

[TamilNet, Monday, 07 March 2011, 01:49 GMT]
In ruling on a Tamil migrant who arrived in Canada last August onboard the MV Sun Sea, Refugee board member, Marc Tessler ruled Sunday that mere association with banned terrorist group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is not enough to prove membership in that group, a conclusion that may make it more difficult for the federal government [of Canada] to send the migrants back, CTV News reported. "Having a definition of membership that would encompass such low-range activities [such as working as a mechanic to repair LTTE run buses] was too broad to encompass membership in a terrorist group," said lawyer Eric Purtzki, who represented one of the migrants at the hearing.

The ruling was into the case of B173, an ethnic Tamil who cannot be identified because of a publication ban. He was accused of being a member of the LTTE because repaired buses in a public transport company controlled by the LTTE, and in a second job repaired two vehicles belonging to the LTTE.

The Canada Border Services Agency argued that work made the man a member of the Tamil Tigers.

"He worked for a public bus transport authority where he repaired public buses as a mechanic in the village," Purtzki told CTV News.

"If you follow the minister's logic literally everybody would be a member of the Tamil Tigers, a teacher, a nurse, or someone selling a soft drink to a soldier," he said. "In the context of daily life and because the LTTE operated a de facto state any contact with the LTTE was inescapable and unavoidable," Purtski said.

Purtzki told the hearing that in areas where the LTTE had wide control of their territory and was involved in the daily lives of citizens, nearly everyone could be argued to be a member – which means that definition of membership is too broad.

Of the 492 passengers on the MV Sun Sea, 107 remain in detention, 101 of them men and six women. The ship arrived less than a year after another Tamil migrant boat, the Ocean Lady, docked in B.C. carrying 76 passengers.

CBSA has referred more than 30 cases to the refugee board for admissibility hearings.

The ruling might provide relief to those refugees whose only association with the LTTE is working in the area controlled by the Liberation Tigers.

U.S. Supreme Court's judgment in Clarence Brandenburg v. State of Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), went even further. The court said, "to voluntarily assemble with a group formed ‘to teach or advocate the doctrines of criminal syndicalism' is not per se illegal. It will become illegal only if it incites to imminent lawless action.”

Tamil communities domiciled in Europe have also been affected by similar incidents of "guilt by association" and have challenged LTTE's proscription in the Court of Justice of the European Communities in Luxembourg. Removal of ban, community leaders believe, would pave the way for non-violent political struggle to continue without getting trapped into anti-terrorism laws.

A spokesperson for Tamils Against Genocide (TAG), a US-based activist group said, "Sri Lanka's diplomats routinely call any Tamil group which agitates against rights violations by Sri Lanka, as rump of the LTTE. TAG has earlier cautioned Sri Lanka's Ambassador in US on his use of the libellous language, and is currently contemplating filing libel charge against Dr Palitha Kohona for a similar statement e-mailed to an Australian media organization recently."

Related Articles:
16.02.11   LTTE ban to be challenged in European Court

External Links:
CTV: Ruling means more Tamil migrants could stay
GM: Immigration board to determine whether man is a member of Tamil Tigers


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