Special Air Service (SAS) veteran Brian Baty who “served on covert operations across the crumbling British empire from the 1950s, then sold his counter-insurgency experience to the Sri Lankan government, profiting from massacres of Tamil civilians” died without facing justice from war crimes, Phil Miller writes for the Declassified UK.
After serving in the SAS, Baty joined Keenie Meenie Services (KMS), a British private mercenary company, which recruited military veterans equipped with combat experience from various conflict situations.
“Sri Lanka’s ruling Sinhalese majority urgently needed military support from KMS to suppress an armed separatist movement among its marginalised Tamil minority. Thatcher’s government had refused to intervene directly, fearing it might sour UK trade deals with India, which initially supported the Tamils,” Miller wrote.
“One of Thatcher’s special advisers had suggested that ‘this venture might be privatised’ and soon after, KMS began its work in Sri Lanka in January 1984…In September 1984, the STF was responsible for a massacre of up to 18 Tamil civilians in Point Pedro, and the unit only became more murderous the longer the KMS training continued.”
“By March 1985, Baty appears to have been ‘acting effectively as the Director of Military Operations of the Sri Lankan High Command,’ according to a declassified UK government telegram. This level of responsibility is significant because around April 1985, the KMS-trained STF became implicated in atrocities along Sri Lanka’s west coast at Mannar, where a local citizens committee accused the unit of looting and rape.”
“Baty’s secret war in Sri Lanka continued throughout 1986 and saw KMS complicity in war crimes escalate…On 19 February 1986, between 40 and 60 Tamil civilians were shot dead in paddy fields neat Lahugala in eastern province. The British Foreign Office commented in a telegram: ’It is becoming more certain that the Special Task Force were responsible for the massacre. Although KMS assistance appeared to be leading to an increase in civilian casualties, the company decided to further deepen its role and begin training Sri Lankan army infantry officers.”
“Days after Baty died, the Foreign Office’s South Asia Minister Lord Ahmad wrote to British Tamil community groups to say that my book detailed ‘war crimes allegedly committed by members of the firm Keenie Meenie Services against civilians in Sri Lanka’ which were ‘very serious allegations.’”
“So serious in fact that Ahmad recommended the Tamil community raise them ‘with the War Crimes Unit of the Metropolitan Police.’ The minister added: ‘I can assure you that the British Government will continue to press for truth, accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.’”
“Despite this sympathetic rhetoric, in reality the Foreign Office continues to cover for Baty. A week before he died, they reluctantly released some more paperwork about KMS, but with heavy redactions- an entire page blacked out for instance…The full truth about the extent of Baty’s dirty war in Sri Lanka is still to come out.”
Read his full piece here.
Phil Miller authored ‘Keenie Meenie: The British Mercenaries Who Got Away with War Crimes,’, a book that reveals how a British mercenary company formed by ex SAS veterans carried out highly controversial operations across the world, including in Sri Lanka.
Read Tamil Guardian's review of the book here.