A European court on Thursday ordered Brussels to remove Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers from an EU terror list, but said the group’s assets should stay frozen pending further legal action.
The General Court of the European Union said the 2006 blacklisting of the group relied on assessments that were “factual imputations derived from the press and the Internet” and therefore insufficient.
The Luxembourg-based court also said the EU failed to check that India, whose sanctions it echoed, had given legal protection up to EU standards to those it accused.
The separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, whose leadership was wiped out in a controversial offensive five years ago, had lodged an appeal to be taken off the list.
But the court said its decision was based on a technicality and did “not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of the applicant as a terrorist group”.
“Therefore the court annuls the contested measures while temporarily maintaining the effects of the last of those measures in order to ensure the effectiveness of any possible future freezing of funds.”
Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry expressed concern over the European court ruling.
It said the decision “may have an impact… on the large majority of Sri Lankans living in EU territory, as well as EU citizens of Sri Lankan origin, who are likely to come under pressure once again by pro-LTTE activists”.
Sri Lanka had previously complained that Tigers at the height of their power extorted money from Sri Lankans abroad to finance their campaign for an independent homeland.
Sri Lankan forces crushed the Tigers’ leadership in a military campaign that ended in May 2009, sparking allegations that up to 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed.
Colombo denies its troops killed any civilians. It refuses to cooperate with a UN-mandated international investigation.
India banned the Tamil Tigers after holding them responsible for the May 1991 assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. The United States outlawed them in 1997