By Saroj Pathirana
Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers in the UK are at risk of torture if returned to Sri Lanka, according to a landmark ruling by a British tribunal.
The tribunal's ruling has given hope to other Sri Lankan asylum seekers
An asylum and immigration tribunal on Monday upheld an appeal by a Sri Lankan refugee known only as Mr LP.
The ruling is also intended to offer guidance for similar cases in the UK.
Mr LP's lawyers argued that he was at risk of torture if he returned home because of his perceived support for Tamil Tiger separatists.
"This is the first such judgement after the breakdown of the Sri Lankan Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) signed in 2002," said Arun Gananathan, a lawyer from the firm who represented Mr LP.
He said that the judgment has set a precedent for future cases about Sri Lankan asylum seekers.
"However, the tribunal has made it clear that every case need to be assessed individually," Mr Gananathan said.
The tribunal ruled that a 2006 UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) report on Sri Lankan asylum seekers could be used as the basis for providing protection to Mr LP in the UK.
The British Home Office had argued against this.
"Individuals suspected of having (rebel) Tamil Tiger affiliations are at risk of human rights abuses by the authorities or government-sponsored paramilitary groups," the UNCHR report had said.
The tribunal ruled that the report carried "substantive weight".
Under earlier rulings, only those who were "actively engaged" with the Tamil Tigers were considered genuinely capable of arguing that they faced persecution by the Sri Lankan authorities.
But the ruling on Wednesday said that Tamil Tiger sympathisers - including relatives and those who have not actively taken part in combat - are also in danger.
The Tigers are fighting in the north and east of Sri Lanka
The Tigers are fighting for a separate state in the north and east of Sri Lanka. They are banned in the UK as a terrorist outfit.
"According to the ruling, the fact that the Tamil Tigers are banned in the UK will not affect Sri Lankan asylum seekers who are their supporters," said Fritz Kodagoda, a Sri Lankan barrister in London.
Over 60 Sri Lankan asylum seekers have been on hunger strike over their planned repatriation to Sri Lanka from several UK detention camps.
The asylum seekers said their lives would be in danger if they are forced back.
Human rights groups say both the government and the rebels have committed abuses against each other's supporters.
The Sri Lanka government strongly denied a recent report by Human Rights Watch that accused the security forces of gross human rights violations.