Tamil warlord entered UK on forged passport
Friday December 21, 2007
Sri Lanka's high commissioner has been called to the Foreign Office to explain how a Tamil paramilitary leader – detained on suspicion of immigration offences and being investigated for possible war crimes – entered Britain on a forged diplomatic passport.
The case of Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, better known as Colonel Karuna, has turned into a complex political embarrassment since his arrest by police and immigration officials in London last month.
Karuna's paramilitary faction – a breakaway group of former Tamil Tiger rebels who switched sides and sought protection from the Sri Lankan government – has been condemned by United Nations officials for abducting and using child soldiers.
He is alleged to have entered the UK on a Sri Lankan diplomatic passport under a false name as the “director general of wildlife conservation”, supposedly to attend a climate warming conference. The passport had been issued with a British visa.
The Foreign Office yesterday confirmed that officials on Monday “expressed concern” to the Sri Lankan high commissioner, Kshenuka Senewiratne, about how Colonel Karuna obtained a diplomatic passport.
Karuna's arrival in Britain appears to be the result of turmoil in his paramilitary faction. Sri Lankan papers have reported that the government in Colombo wanted to remove him from the country so that it could replace him with a rival paramilitary leader.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Coalition to Stop Child Soldiers have called for the authorities in the UK to investigate whether Karuna can be prosecuted here for international war crimes. The Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), as the paramilitary group is also known, has been accused of abducting teenagers from playgrounds and refugee camps to serve as child soldiers. It is also alleged to have committed torture and extortion.
Such crimes can be tried in this country under UK war crimes legislation. The Crown Prosecution Service said: “We have received preliminary reports from the police and are liaising with them.”
The Guardian understands that Karuna, 45, who is being held in an immigration detention centre, is being investigated for possible war crimes offences. His wife and children have already sought asylum in the UK. The high commission in London said yesterday: “The government of Sri Lanka is unaware of any issuance of a diplomatic passport to Colonel Karuna. The [Tamil Tigers] are well known for forging passports.”
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