The Council of the European Union has relisted the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist organisation. The decision came into effect on March 21, 2018, continuing the “specific restrictive measures directed against certain persons and entities with a view to combating terrorism”.
The LTTE is among 20 organisations named. The relisting is the result of a protracted diplomatic battle that involved Sri Lanka’s mission in Brussels, where the EU has its headquarters. The President, the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and the Secretaries of Foreign Affairs and Defence were involved in the diplomatic move, sources said.
The LTTE was first listed as a terrorist movement in 2006 and has remained on the list ever since. But, while the LTTE did not challenge its initial listing, it did contest their subsequent retention on the list before the European General Court (EGC).
In 2014, the EGC annulled the restrictive measures imposed on the LTTE, citing “procedural shortcomings”. But it decided to maintain, until the conclusion of any appeal, the effects of the annulled measures to ensure the effectiveness of any possible future freezing of funds.
The Council of the European Union appealed against the 2014 judgment at the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In July 2017, however, the ECJ confirmed an annulment of the continued freezing of the LTTE’s funds between 2011 and 2015. But the funds remained frozen as a result of the two most recent reviews by the Council in July 2016 and January 2017.
The ECJ directed that the LTTE be taken off the EU list. It said: “In the statements of reasons relating to the restrictive measures, the Council did not refer to anything that might explain why it considered at the time that, notwithstanding the LTTE’s military defeat in 2009, it was the LTTE’s intention to continue terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka.”
Thereafter, Sri Lanka’s diplomatic machinery engaged the 2- member States of the European Council to find ways and means of collating material to address the ECJ’s concerns and keep the LTTE on the list. Politically, all member states and the EU took the unwavering position that the LTTE should remain on the list, the sources said.
However, in view of the court decision, the methodology had to be on legal, technical and security grounds. In the past six months, therefore, considerable “quiet diplomacy” was undertaken in Brussels to gather and present the right information, at legal and technical levels to the member states to meet the court stipulations.
With direct involvement of the Foreign Minister, President Maithripala Sirisena wrote personal letters to the Heads of Government of EU member States and the Presidents of the European Council and European Commission. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also made phone calls. All this contributed towards ensuring the “continued political will in the EU to continue with the listing”.
Information was gathered from security and legal interlocutors in Colombo and presented to the EU. The member States were, thereby, convinced enough to have the listing of the LTTE continue. In short, the European Council was able to present “new reasons” to warrant the continuation of the listing, the sources said.