Being a Tamil Tiger does not preclude seeking asylum in the UK

A surprisingly progressive decision in Britain and a healthy precedent for other civil conflicts around the world:

Members of a banned terrorist organisation can claim asylum in Britain, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The court ruled that being a member of the Tamil Tigers, which has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the government, should not prevent an individual claiming asylum.

Their ruling was made in the case of “R” who joined the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 1992, at the age of 10.

The Tamil Tigers, or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, have been involved in a bloody struggle in Sri Lanka, that stretches back 30 years.

“R” occupied various positions until, at the age of 18, he was appointed to lead a mobile unit transporting members of the intelligence division through the jungles to Colombo.

He also acted as chief security guard to the leader of the intelligence division and second in command of the combat unit of the intelligence division.

In October 2006 he was sent under cover to Colombo to await further instructions but two months later he discovered that the Sri Lankan government was aware of his presence in the capital.

He fled to Britain and claimed asylum on the basis that if he returned to Sri Lanka he would face mistreatment due to his race and LTTE membership.

The application was refused, saying that there were grounds for considering that he had committed war crimes.

It said the Tamil Tigers had been “responsible for widespread and systemic war crimes and crimes against humanity” and that his membership of an extremist group could be presumed to amount to “personal and knowing participation, or at least acquiescence amounting to complicity, in the crimes in question.”

The decision was quashed by the Court of Appeal which said the government was wrong to assume that the individual, as a member of the LTTE, was guilty of knowing participation in such crimes and that the government should have considered whether there was evidence that he had made a significant contribution to the commission of such crimes.

The Home Secretary appealed against the decision but on Wednesday that was turned down.

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