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‘Time to focus on accountability in Sri Lanka’ – Jeremy Corbyn

The Leader of the Opposition in Britain Jeremy Corbyn has called for a focus on accountability in Sri Lanka and an audit of British funding for the training of Sri Lankan police, as he expressed deep concern over reports of the ongoing torture of Tamils.

Responding to a report by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) which documented continued human rights violations by Sri Lankan security forces, Mr Corbyn said he was “deeply concerned… about the ongoing torture of Tamils”.

“It is the lack of accountability for the crimes of the past that has enabled these horrific violations to continue and we are all culpable if we don't speak out loudly,” he added.

The Labour Party leader went on to call for a rethink of British policy, stating,

“On the basis of this report, the Home Office must immediately revise its country guidance on Sri Lanka - so that the risk categories match what's clearly going on there rather than some wish believe view from London”.

“It's time our foreign policy on Sri Lanka focused on accountability not just promoting trade and investment.”

Mr Corbyn added that he would be calling for an “independent audit” of British funding for the training of Sri Lankan police, with reports that policemen have routinely carried out the torture of Tamils.

“We need to know if this funding has helped diminish torture or just made the perpetrators better at covering it up," he concluded.

His statement comes after the British government expressed “serious concerns” to Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner this week, in light of a United Nations Special Rapporteur report, which also found that torture was endemic, systematic and routine on the island. In a statemnt to parliament, the Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom also pointed to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) annual human rights report which declared that Sri Lanka was one of 30 ‘Human Rights Priority Countries’ (HRPCs). Sri Lanka joins other states such as Syria, North Korea, Zimbabwe and Yemen. 

Ben Emmerson, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism warned earlier this month that the Sri Lankan government has done “almost nothing” to hold human rights violators in the military to account and was laying down conditions that may “reignite conflict”.