Leading US role in EU ban on Tigers recalled

European Court of Justice assertion India not reliable source of info raises many an eyebrow

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The EU wouldn’t have listed the LTTE, if not for the US throwing its weight behind a high profile Sri Lankan campaign to have the group proscribed in Europe, those involved in the diplomatic initiative said yesterday.

The EU announced the ban on May 30, 2006.

A former diplomat said the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar on the night of August 8 2005 and the US backing had influenced the EU decision, though the LTTE banked heavily on Norway to thwart the Sri Lankan initiative.

Responding to a question by The Island, sources said that as the EU had been designated as one of the four co-chairs to the peace process, listing of the group could cause a debilitating setback to the entire process. The then Bush administration went to the extent in sending Special Envoy Christina Rocca to Europe to campaign in support of Sri Lanka’s initiative, sources said.

Scandinavian countries, namely Sweden, Denmark and Finland involved with the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) generally backed the Norwegian position, sources said.

The EU resolution meant to freeze LTTE financial assets, prohibit fund raising and travel ban on LTTE personnel came into operation as Norway was trying to arrange a meeting between President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s representatives and the LTTE in Geneva.

In the run-up to the EU action, senior US State Department official Donald Camp declared in Colombo on May 16 that the Bush administration was pushing the EU hard to outlaw the LTTE. The media quoted him as having said: “We have encouraged the EU to list the LTTE. We think the LTTE deserved that label. We think it will help cut off financial supplies and weapons procurement and the like.”

Asked whether India, too, backed the Sri Lankan effort, sources said that the then Indian government had not played a proactive role, though it didn’t sabotage the project. However, Indian position had strengthened Sri Lanka’s case, particularly in the backdrop of Norway vigorously campaigning for the LTTE, sources said.

War-Crime-Now that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had annulled severe restrictions imposed on the LTTE, a reappraisal of the ground situation was necessary, sources said. The government couldn’t ignore the possibility of the EU decision having a bearing on the ongoing UN investigation into accountability issues in Sri Lanka, sources said. The annulment was made on Thursday (16).

The court decision will come into effect after three months.

The European Court of Justice is the highest court in the EU on matters of European Union law. Sources said that the ECJ’s ruling that the declaration of the LTTE as a terrorist organization was based on “imputations derived from the press and the Internet” was surprising because the EU had access to whatever information available to the US. The court also observed that India couldn’t be regarded as a reliable source of information since that country adopted a ‘biased position’ in the conflict between the LTTE and the Government of Sri-Lanka.

A retired diplomat alleged that the ECJ had obviously ignored that India proscribed the LTTE in the wake of an LTTE female suicide cadre assassinating one-time Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. For want of a cohesive strategy, the US role in the EU ban on the LTTE never received the attention the issue really deserved.

Another source said that the EU-LTTE issue could come up at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The change of classification would help the LTTE’s cause, the source said, urging the government to be mindful of the impact the EU could have on the war crimes probe. Tamil Diaspora would now go on the offensive with an eye on the next Geneva vote on Sri Lanka expected in late March next year.