Canada deported man to torture in Sri Lanka: affidavit
A Tamil man who was charged with organizing a ship that brought about 500 migrants to Canada from Sri Lanka was brutally tortured after he was deported, according to a document obtained by CTV News.
Sathyapavan "Sathi" Aseervatham said he was held for a year without charge in a Sri Lankan prison, beaten with plastic pipes, and forced to go without food and water, according to an affidavit arranged by his Canadian lawyer.
“My body was thirsty for water and when I asked for water they beat me,” it reads. “They blindfolded my eyes and I was locked in a small cage with my hands tied up behind my back and no clothes for many days. I could not count the days because it was dark and cold and I was fully naked."
The affidavit is dated Oct. 29, 2012, and notarized by a Sri Lankan justice of the peace. Sathi’s lawyer, Gabriel Chand, said it was impossible to make it public while Sathi was alive because it would put his client at risk.
However Sathi’s death in a car accident about two weeks ago has allowed Chand to talk about what his client went through.
“There should be a moratorium against removals to Sri Lanka,” Chand said. “We don’t remove to Afghanistan, Iraq, these countries, because it’s inherently dangerous. In my view Sri Lanka should be on that list.”
Sri Lanka was wracked for almost 30 years by a civil war between the government and the Tamil Tigers. In 2009, the government won the war, which was one factor that pushed ethnic Tamils to flee the country.
When the M.V. Sun Sea arrived on Canadian shores in August 2010, the Canadian government took an aggressive approach to deter future ships. Government lawyers pushed for deportation in hearings, appealing at least 10 cases to get a total of 29 deportation orders so far.
Sathi was deemed inadmissible to Canada because of a criminal record and charges that he was involved with organizing the Sun Sea’s voyage. After a year in Canadian prison, he left his wife and daughter in Canada and was escorted by CBSA officials to a military airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in July of 2011, the affidavit says.
Refugee hearings are meant to be private to ensure the claimant’s safety if he is returned to his home country. But the affidavit says that Sri Lankan members of the Terrorist Investigations Divisions appeared to know he was on the MV Sun Sea.
“They know that I come to Canada on the ship but I did not say this to them,” he said.
Sathi didn’t make it out of the airport and neither his family or his lawyer could reach him. A few months later he was found by the Red Cross in the Sri Lankan prison, according to Chand.
“I was truly happy to see them as the grace of Gods will,” the affidavit says. “When Red Cross comes to visit then after I was given better rations of food and water and I saw a doctor for the pains I had. I stayed in jail for over one year.
“Then in jail my parents came but I could not speak too many truths because army very close. But they see my beaten face and see I am skinny from less food. I cry every time I see them.”
A Toronto-based immigration consultant said he had spoken to Sathi on the phone as well and Sathi also complained to him of a year-long detention.
“He said to me he was detained for almost a year, and while in detention he was tortured and assaulted,” Sam Nagendra said, adding that the case has intimidated many Canadian Tamils from co-operating with Canadian authorities.
RCMP charged Sathi with human smuggling offenses in June of 2012, about a month before he was released.
Chand said Sathi’s family had to come up with a bribe of the equivalent of $40,000 before he was released.
Chand says he used Sathi’s affidavit in other immigration hearings to convince tribunals that other passengers aboard the MV Sun Sea could be at risk if they returned.
However, Chand said that the CBSA challenged the affidavit and said they would do their own investigation.
Soon Sathi had been arrested again in late 2012, and was interviewed by Sri Lankan authorities and the Canadian CBSA liaison in Sri Lanka. In that interview, Sathi denied that he wrote the affidavit.
Chand said he attempted to get Canadian authorities to interview Sathi at the Canadian embassy, but the CBSA did not take him up on it. He said the presence of the Sri Lankan authorities compromised that interview.
“I think that’s intimidating the witness,” Chand said. “They intimidated him into recanting a statement that I know he made.”
About two weeks ago Sathi was killed in a car accident in Jaffna, in northern Sri Lanka, Chand said. He said the case has yet to be solved, and family and leaders in the Tamil community suspect this was a murder.
The Sri Lankan embassy in Canada did not return calls or e-mails.
The CBSA refused to comment about the case, citing privacy. They did say that 120 people were removed to Sri Lanka over 2012, but would not say how many people on either the M.V. Sun Sea or the M.V. Ocean Lady have been deported.
Reached about the case at a Toronto press conference, former immigration minister Jason Kenney said he was unaware of the particular case, and wasn't informed about it during a visit to Sri Lanka in January.
“The CBSA confirmed to me they have no reported incidents of violence striking any Sri Lankan deportees,” he said.
As of the end of September, 117 people on the M.V. Sun Sea have been accepted as refugees, 117 people have had their claims rejected, and 23 claims have been withdrawn. Many are still pending. Two migrants remain in Canadian prison.