Sri Lanka court halts eviction of Tamils

Sri Dharanee Performance Arts Theatre

June 8, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court Friday ordered an immediate halt to the eviction of minority ethnic Tamils from the capital, a day after hundreds were expelled at gunpoint, a court official said. The Court issued the order following a complaint by a political activist group that Thursday’s police operation was a violation of fundamental rights.

“The court will hear the case on June 22, and in the meantime the police Inspector General was restrained from carrying out any eviction of Tamils,” a court official told AFP.

Human rights activists have said the expulsions amounted to a “collective punishment” on the Tamil community.

Sri Lanka’s defence ministry has insisted the operation, in which hundreds were bused out of the capital to the war-torn east and north, was necessary to prevent bomb attacks by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for separation from the Sinhalese-majority south of the island since 1972.

Nine people were killed in and around Colombo, a city of 600,000 people, in two blasts last month. The rebel infiltrators were believed to have used cheap lodgings similar to those targeted in the police raids.