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Terrorism: Tamil Tigers

Volume 693: debated on Monday 9 July 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they have taken any action since June 2006 to curtail or prosecute those persons promoting the activities of the proscribed organisation Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers).

My Lords, the arrest and prosecution for offences related to proscribed organisations is a matter for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service respectively. I understand that the police have recently charged two individuals with offences relating to membership of and support for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further on such matters, as to do so could prejudice any potential trial.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the action taken by the authorities in arresting Mr Shanthan and Mr Lambert is extremely welcome, Mr Shanthan being the de facto leader of the Tamil Tigers in the UK? In their press release, the police state that,

“a quantity of literature and manuals including Underwater Warfare Systems, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Naval Weapons Systems”

was found in his home. Does not that, the continuing credit card fraud, intimidation and bogus charities underline the need to ensure that proscription of the Tamil Tigers continues until such time as the leader, Mr Prabhakaran, comes to the conference table and agrees to have peace and a final settlement in war-torn Sri Lanka?

My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord and thank him for his support for the police’s continued efforts to deal with the LTTE. We have taken action on other fronts. We are clamping down on the group’s funds through bogus charities, as the noble Lord will be aware, as part of our work overall to combat terrorism and its funding in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that atrocities have been committed on both sides, by government forces as well as by Tamils, and that the real distinction is between the extremists on both sides, who are seeking to escalate the violence, and the moderates on both sides, who are looking for negotiated accommodation? Does he also agree that, in those circumstances, to label one side only as terrorists while condoning the actions of the other is not a helpful solution to the peace process?

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord is right that we should encourage moderates on both sides of the argument. It serves no good purpose to encourage terrorism in any shape or form. We are completely opposed to terrorist activity, particularly terrorist activity in the United Kingdom. We must make efforts to work with the Sri Lankan Government to ensure that the peace process is reinvigorated, so that peace can be brought to Sri Lanka.

My Lords, a few days ago, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam celebrated the 20th anniversary of its campaign of suicide bombing, which it pioneered long before anyone else took it up. It continues to use child soldiers, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies claims that there is evidence of its commercial links with al-Qaeda. Is the noble Lord satisfied that adequate resources are made available to SOCA to prevent the campaign of intimidation and extortion by which the LTTE raises funds in the United Kingdom for its terrorist activities in Sri Lanka?

Yes, my Lords, we are content that adequate resources are set aside for anti-terrorist activity. Obviously we must do more to maximise the use of those resources to ensure that our anti-terrorist efforts, whether against the LTTE or the other proscribed organisations, are at their best at all times. We know that we must be ever vigilant, and we encourage the British public to join us in that vigilance.

My Lords, on proscribed organisations, does the noble Lord have any plans to proscribe Hizb ut-Tahrir? If not, why not?

My Lords, as the noble Baroness will know, an organisation can be proscribed only if the available evidence meets the test set out in the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows for proscription on the ground that an organisation is concerned in terrorism. For these purposes, that includes promoting or encouraging terrorism. As the Prime Minister made very clear last week, we keep under very careful review all organisations about which there are real concerns.