The inside story
of 'Eelam Courts'
have a strong legal system says LTTE legal chief
Chris Kamalendran in Kilinochchi
Tamil guerrillas have put into operation a full-fledged legal system
in areas dominated by them in the north and East and are looking
forward to expand it. The guerrillas have put into place a 'law
college' to train their lawyers, put up as many as 17 courts including
a special bench, similar to the Supreme Court in Sri Lanka. The
only difference being that the final decisions regarding the appeals
are referred to LTTE chief, Velupillai Prabhakaran.
Kilinochchi District Court Judge Thambirasa Varathishwaran.
Pix by J. Weerasekera
A 'Chief Justice',
an 'Attorney General' , a post equivalent to the Legal draftsman
and a range of other 'judges' varying from 'Court of Appeal judges'
to 'Magistrates have also been appointed. As in any other court
in the south, Registrars and interpreters have been appointed.
system is a strong one. We have based our system on the existing
Sri Lankan, Indian and British laws. We have carefully studied these
laws and made our own laws," says the LTTE's Legal and Administration
division chief Illayathamby Pararajasingham, one time Member of
excerpts from the interview with the legal chief who is popularly
known as Para.
the need to introduce a separate legal system ?
Our leader felt that the legal system in the country was not
helping the poor. Therefore he decided that the 'Tamil Eelam' areas
should have a separate courts and a legal system which could serve
the poor. From the early 1990's we have been developing the legal
system. We introduced the 'law college' in 1992 with the courses
first being opened only to the LTTE armed cadres who had passed
the Advanced Level examination. The first batch only included 25
Today as many as 700 people including LTTE cadres send in applications
to join the 'law college' . But only 50 are selected to follow the
five year course which includes three years academic and two years
How do you
conduct the lectures ?
They follow lectures given by lawyers living in the LTTE controlled
areas, as well as lawyers who come from the south for lectures at
the college in Mullaitivu. The college will soon be offering a scholarship
scheme for poor children with A/Level qualifications. The courses
cover a wide range of subjects. (See separate story about LTTE 'Law
Has the LTTE
introduced this system to challenge the system in the South ?
It is not to challenge the system in the south, but to run a
smooth civil administration in the north. We should have a system
suitable for the people.
has been opening more courts in recent weeks. The first court in
the east was opened last month. Why are you opening them now ?
It is now that we are formalizing the courts system. All these
years most of the matters taken up were reconciliation matters.
We are now expanding the formal court system.
are you opening them at this time, particularly after the signing
of the MOU?
After the LTTE and the government signed the MoU people are
gradually returning to normal life and there is a need for civil
laws to be effective. Some of the main cases being taken up at our
courts are cases related to land disputes and money transaction
disputes. Some people returning home have found that some of their
houses and land are being occupied by others.
There is a vacuum
due to the non - existence of a legal system. We have to maintain
law and order in the areas controlled by us. For this purpose we
need the court system.
have been reports of the LTTE going to areas controlled by the Security
Forces and arresting people. One such case was reported from the
east. Any comment?
When there is a complaint , we have to take action whether it
is from the cleared area or the uncleared area. We know of instances
where the government police in the east have advised people to come
to our police and make complaints.
How do you
see the function of the LTTE courts in the future?
I am not clear on how we are going to gain recognition for our
legal system and that is a matter which would be finally decided
by the leader. However we have no plans to give up the system. The
people in the north and east have lost faith in the legal system
of the country. Therefore this system should continue. For example
with the signing of the MoU there was an assurance that cases filed
under the PTA would be reviewed and suspects released but that is
the Law College of Tamil Eelam
from an LTTE document outlining the ' The Law College of Tamil Eelam'
Established in 1992. Objective :To cater to the legal needs and
developments of the Judicial Administration which creates the freedom
of the people of Tamil Eelam.
lectured by those who are experts in the field , those qualified
at the Sri Lankan Law college and by those qualified at the law
colleges of Tamil Eelam . Matters of Law , and legal techniques
of the countries like Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia and Britain are
included in the subjects..
of Law college: A person who is a qualified expert in this field
will be in charge of administration. Senate: An official will be
in charge of this senate and senior lecturers and the experts in
this field will be members of this senate. The Senate will meet
to decide on the matters pertaining to students welfare, studies,
examinations, release of results of examination, new academic year,
Course is conducted in two categories as Internal and External courses.
Freedom fighters and outside students fall into the first category.
University graduates, employees from the government departments
and non - governmental organizations, employees from the recognized
organizations are admitted as external students.
Students for the Study Course: Those who have passed G.C.E. (A/L)
Examination, university graduates, employees who have completed
seven years of service in governmental and non - governmental organizations
are admitted to these courses. Examination: Examination is held
at the end of each academic year.
2. History of Law and Legal System.
3. Roman Dutch Law.
4. English Law.
5. Constitutional Law.
6. Human Rights and Rules.
8. Law of Torts.
9. Law of contract.
10. Tamil Language and Literature.
11. English Language.
1. Civil Procedure
2. Criminal Procedure Code.
3. Commercial Law, Accountancy and Management.
4. Law of Property Act.
5. Law of Thesawalamai.
6. Family Law.
7. Police Act.
8. Personal Act.
9. Land Act..
10. English Language.
2. Law of Trust and Property.
3. Administrative Law.
4. Trade Practices Act.
5. International Law.
6. Law of Deed.
7. Sales Tax Act.
8. Forensic Medicine and Criminology.
9. English Language.
We have an independent
system says 'District Court Judge'
Varathishwaran, 34 is one of the students of the first batch of
the 'LTTE law college' opened in 1992 in Mullaithivu. Today he is
one of the 'senior judges' serving in the Kilinochchi 'District
Court'. He has served in four areas over the past seven years and
taken up more than 1000 cases.
hailing from Batticaloa was a member of the LTTE military wing,
but later opted to join the first batch of the 'law college'.
The Sunday Times at the Kilinochchi 'District Court' he said cases
to the courts are forwarded by the police. Police can keep a suspect
in their custody only for 24 hours. If the police fail to carryout
these instructions they are questioned and in some instances warned
by the 'Courts'.
files a 'B' report, but the 'courts' do not accept it as it is.
We cross examine the accused and try to determine whether the facts
in the 'B' report are accurate. Unlike in the South we do not accept
confession reports and charge persons," he said.
we are satisfied with the 'B' report we also summon any other party
involved in the case. They can come with any lawyer, from any part
of the country, but would have to take oaths in the LTTE courts
before appearing there," he said.
amount a lawyer could charge his client is Rs. 300 per appearance.
But on many occasions people cannot afford this. For this we have
lawyers who appear free of charge.
legal system any case cannot exceed more than six months. So far
all the cases have been finished within this period. The judicial
system here is very independent. There are some cases against LTTE
cadres. Some of these cases are taken up at 'military courts' which
is a different set up," he said.
structure Supreme Court:
of three judges appointed by National Leader. It has the final jurisdiction
with final judgements in respect of all cases.
Consists of three judges who sit together in trials. Functions
as the court which has jurisdiction on appeals in respect of cases
tried before, by the high courts, District Courts and the Special
(Sits only whenever the need arises): This court sits with
three judges , who have been selected and arranged by the Chief
Justice to hold the trials of criminal cases, that should have arisen
out of incidents that have taken place in special circumstances
and that be special events.
This court has the jurisdiction to try certain criminal cases
in the terms of Court of Appeal Act.
The primary court with the jurisdiction in respect of civil
The primary court with the jurisdiction in respect of criminal
Family Council will be formed in District Courts (Civil) and
will be responsible for resolving family disputes.
open to all lawyers
The man who is regarded as the 'Chief Justice' of the Tamil guerrilla
'courts' says lawyers passing out from Sri Lanka Law College and
Law Faculties could appear and argue for their clients in 'Thamileelam
law courts' in the northeast province, but would have to take oaths
in 'Eelam courts' before their appearances.
S. Opilan made
the comments after the ceremonial opening of the Trincomalee District
'Court of Thamileelam' at Kattaiparichchan early this week. At the
ceremony along with Opilan the 'District Judges' of Kilinochchi
and Trincomalee Mr. Maniarasan and Mr. Mayuran were also present.
are sixteen 'Thamileelam law courts' in areas held by the LTTE in
the northeast province.
who obtained training in the judiciary are holding judicial posts.
We dispense justice under the 'Thamileelam criminal and civil procedure
codes," Mr.Opilan said. Elaborating on the 'Thamileelam Law
College' he said that it was functioning since 1990 and upto now
six batches of lawyers have passed out from the college.
He said upto
now Thamileelam courts in LTTE areas had disposed of more than 23,000
Less than five percent of litigants had appealed against the judgments.
This shows that more than ninety five percent of the litigants were
satisfied with the judgments of the LTTE courts.
GL says no more
has assured that it will take steps not to expand its 'courts of
Law' and hamper the peace process, Government's chief peace negotiator
G.L. Peiris said.
was given by LTTE's chief negotiator Anton Balasingham during the
last round of peace talks in Oslo early this week, he said.
said Mr. Balasingham had agreed that it would refrain from any kind
of activity that would whip up emotions against the peace process.
said that the issue is being used by 'spoiler elements' who want
to jeopardize the peace process.
He said the
LTTE police stations and courts would not engage in activities in
areas coming under government control.
with Chief Justice Sarath N de Silva
LTTE has no judicial authority - CJ
By Laila Nasry
What are your comments on the controversial LTTE 'courts'?
These courts are not consistent with our constitution and they
cannot exist under our hierarchy. Our courts are fully functional
in those areas and we do not recognise any other courts. The people
too should not go there.
LTTE courts functioned in different parts of the country, but subsequent
to those areas coming under government control and being cleared,
the state has been systematically establishing courts in the North
However we are
aware that in Kilinochchi which is an uncleared area an LTTE court
is in existence. This court is in our building and there is a board
saying 'Court of Tamil Eelam. We sent the Secretary of the JSC there
to verify it and he reported to us that he had seen the board and
that there was such a court in existence."
Do you see
this as a serious problem?
We must maintain our courts because that is what holds for
governance. Legal systems, courts, police are all incidence of governance.
If there is an erosion then there is no state. This is the danger
of it. That's why we have been systematically establishing courts.
It is easy for
someone to create courts. But what is important is the proper functioning
of them. We have functioning courts. They are open and anyone can
walk in and watch the proceedings.
LTTE exercise judicial power?
No. The LTTE can have a conciliation mechanism if they want,like
if two neighbours are at dispute then settling such a dispute in
an amicable manner is all right. But they have no judicial authority.
is part of the sovereignty of the people and it cannot be exercised
by any other person than those who are vested with it. If someone
else is administering justice then he is doing it on his own accord.
in the 1988 and 1989 period, the people were apprehended by the
JVP and dealt with-now that was not judicial power. It is an example
of someone assuming authority and administering what they believed
to be justice.
the people who are being dealt with by these LTTE courts?
If we are informed by any person that he has been incarcerated
by these so called courts we will issue a writ of Habeas Corpus
to have him released.
an existing judicial system in the North and East?
Of course. From around the time I was Attorney General we have
been setting up courts. Currently the Wanni area has two new courts
in Vavuniya and in Mannar. Vavuniya has a hierarchy with a Magistrates
Court, District Court and a High Court. Previously in Jaffna although
there were judges there were no courts because they had been destroyed
by the war. Nevertheless a few courts functioned in private old
in the Jaffna peninsula courts have been set up in Jaffna town,
Mallakam, Point Pedro, Kayts and in Chavakachcheri. During the Elephant
Pass debacle the Chavakachcheri court was damaged. Now it is housed
in an old building in close proximity to Point Pedro. Courts in
the Eastern province have also been established from Pottuvil upto
Muttur. The court in Muttur and Kantale are circuit courts but will
be made permanent next year. Officers in these courts are all people
from the area and the Attorney General has also assigned State Counsel
to appear in Vavuniya and Jaffna.
Can the LTTE
courts be integrated into our judicial system?
No. It is the Judicial Services Commission that has sole authority
over the appointment of judges and these courts have no place in