Human rights violation – Scotland halts training for Sri Lankan Police

Police Scotland has confirmed that it will be halting training for Sri Lankan Police officers in response to the alleged human rights violations backed by state, following communications exerted from the United Nations.

Making this announcement Iain Livingstone, Chief Constable of Police Scotland, told Scottish authorities:

“Our training in Sri Lanka was suspended in early 2020. We have not deployed to Sri Lanka since that time, because the overseas Security and Justice Assistance assessment (OSJA), require a review to accurately reflect the current security and human rights issues in the region, which have changed since our initial deployment after the end of the Civil War in 2010.

The OSJA assessment review remains incomplete. As such there will be no further deployments of Police Scotland officers to Sri Lanka during the remainder of the agreed period, which ends in March 2022. In addition to we have written to the British High Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to advise that we are not going to seek to renew engagement to support policing in Sri Lanka.

We remain, of course, committed to supporting the international development of policing services right across the world, so that we can enhance and enable human rights or we can underline the values that we hold dear of integrity, fairness and respect. Those values will always be at the heart of the work that we deliver in Scotland and at the heart of everything we do internationally”.

“We believe it is vital that the voices of human rights campaigners and those who have either fled from or are still suffering state-driven violence in Sri Lanka are heard” the joint statement read.

The letter further detailed the ongoing abuses Sri Lankan officers are accused of engaging in:

“The persistence of longstanding and endemic patterns of custodial deaths, use of torture and other ill-treatment, and extrajudicial killings by law enforcement officials with impunity, [as well as] credible allegations through well-known human rights organizations of abductions, torture and sexual violence by Sri Lankan security forces… including in the past year, which need to be credibly investigated”.

A number of human rights organisations have supported the call to end this training programme which includes the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP), Freedom from Torture, Pax Christi Scotland, and Human Rights Watch.

“This is a huge victory for those of us who have called since 2016 for a review of the training, in the light of credible allegations of ongoing torture,” ITJP Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka said.

“Torture continues to be carried out by the police and army in Sri Lanka, despite all of the training – the international community needs rather to focus on accountability for torture rather than continuing to fund and support training and capacity building programmes which alone will not stop systematic abuse,” Ms Sooka added.

Police Scotland must stop training Sri Lankan officers if allegations of state-sanctioned torture are confirmed, according to the UN investigator behind an excoriating report into alleged human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, says a report published by The Sunday Post of Scotland two weeks ago.

The report says: “Professor Manfred Nowak, a former United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights, called for Holyrood to launch an inquiry into the claims of police brutality made by refugees fleeing Sri Lanka for Scotland.

“If their claims are established, he said, Scotland’s national force must end its controversial training of Sri Lankan police and special units.

“Police Scotland insists its international training improves world policing but critics fear the force has been naive to work with the government in Colombo while its tacit endorsement is helping whitewash the torture, abduction and murder of ethnic minority Tamils, the report said.

MSPs have backed Nowak’s call for a parliamentary inquiry. Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton echoed his concerns and said: “Any continuation of the training arrangement Police Scotland has with Sri Lanka brings us worryingly close to a complicit relationship with people who we now know are committing torture and rape on an industrial scale.

“I very much want to hear from these torture victims and support calls for an inquiry by our Justice Committee and a police investigation.”

:Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary Pauline McNeill said: “It’s vitally important victims of torture and human rights abuses know we are watching and listening.

“I believe we will have strong cross-party support for Scotland to take a stance against these human rights violations.”

Frances Harrison, of the International Truth and Justice Project, said: “If Scotland took these groundbreaking steps they would lead the way across the world by showing the perpetrators of torture cannot escape their crimes.

“A parliamentary inquiry would act as a beacon of light to the thousands of victims of torture who live in silence and fear around the world, and send an important message to Sri Lanka that their actions will not be tolerated.”

In February Amnesty International published a damning report detailing how Sri Lankan government officials repeatedly attacked and targeted human rights campaigners, lawyers representing families of the disappeared and political opponents.

“Naomi McAuliffe, director of Amnesty International UK Scotland said: “We have asked to see evidence that Police Scotland takes human rights into consideration before entering into any overseas training agreement and have received no assurances.

“There has to be consideration not only of whether overseas forces have been involved in human rights abuses but how Police Scotland’s involvement might contribute towards helping other forces to conceal or downplay their human rights atrocities.”


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