27th Oct 2016

Swedish general slams EU for terror listing Tamil Tigers

The Swedish head of the outgoing Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), retired brigadier general Ulf Henricsson, has slammed the EU for listing the Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka as terrorists.

He said the ruling meant the Sri Lankan government thought it had "carte blanche" to take on the rebels, according to French news agency AFP.

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Ahead of the decision to list the Tigers as terrorists in May, the Swedish general had warned Brussels in a memo that it could lead to a rise in violence and attacks.

"I think it [the memo] was not read very carefully. It was a more high-level decision made in the cafes of Brussels," the general said.

"I would say it's a mistake, it was a wrong decision because... the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] and the government have signed the ceasefire agreement as equal partners," said general Henricsson.

"If one is suddenly on a terrorist list it's not very difficult to see we're going to run into difficulties - which we have done," the Swede said.

As foreseen by the Swedish chief of the peace-monitors, the violence has escalated dramatically over the summer, with intensive military operations and fighting taking place now in several locations in the North and East.

Sri Lanka's military said nearly 650 people have been killed this month.

According to international aid agencies, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the humanitarian situation on the Jaffna peninsula is now reaching crisis levels.

Finland, currently holding the presidency of the EU, last week expressed grave concerns about the ongoing violence in Sri Lanka and said it "seriously puts the ceasefire agreement and the peace process at risk".

EU peace monitors to leave

The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission was deployed in Sri Lanka's north and east provinces to observe the Norwegian-brokered ceasefire in February 2002.

But while the fighting is intensifying, Swedish, Finnish and Danish members of the mission are due to leave by the end of next week.

The Tamil Tigers will not accept EU nationals as monitors after 1 September because the European Union has proscribed them as a terrorist organisation.

The gradual withdrawal of the 39 Nordic monitors (out of a total contingent of 57) has begun.

Norwegian and Icelandic monitors – both countries are not members of the EU - will remain in Sri Lanka to monitor the crumbling ceasefire.

The EU decision to list the Tamil Tigers as terrorists was taken on 29 May after similar decisions by the US, Canada and India.

Tamils make up around a fifth of the island's 20 million strong population. The ceasefire ended a three-decade battle for a homeland for the Tamils in the island's northeast that has left at least 60,000 dead.

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