Scotland’s police service is due to renew a controversial deal under which Sri Lanka’s security forces receive training, The National reported on Thursday.
The Scottish Police College (SPC) has provided the training since 2007 but the current contract is due to expire at the end of this month.
However, in a move that has been condemned by politicians and human rights campaigners, the SPC have confirmed that they are close to sealing a new contract for 2015-2016 to further work to develop Sri Lanka’s National Police Academy.
Independent MSP John Finnie, who has previously raised concerns about SPC training in the Maldives due to human rights concerns, said that an extension of the contract would cause “reputational damage” to the Scottish Police Service.
Mr Finnie, a former police officer, said: “Once again the Scottish Police Service finds itself linked with an oppressive regime whose police officers it trained.
“When the UN Human Rights Council and Amnesty International raise concerns about Sri Lankan forces abusing its citizens then I would expect the Scottish Police College (SPC) to pay attention.
“Whilst the argument ‘we can instil a policing style that respects citizens’ has some merit, however, the sad fact is those methods haven’t been adopted as Sri Lanka’s police systematically abuse Sri Lankans’ human rights.
“I am sure the SPC will feel under pressure to generate income.
“However, I would urge caution and an understanding that continued involvement with human-rights-abusing regimes will cause reputational damage.
“Likewise, I’d expect leadership from the Scottish Government, placing a rights-based approach to all it and its agencies do, rather than the distancing I encountered when raising issues about SPC links to the violent regime in the Maldives, and a clear statement that this training must stop.”
Corporate Watch’s Phil Miller, who published a report last year documenting British involvement in Sri Lankan human rights abuses, said: “I am concerned that the Scottish Police College is even considering renewing its contract to train the Sri Lankans.
“The college is kidding itself if it believes Scottish involvement can improve the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. The FCO’s new report shows police brutality in Sri Lanka continues unabated.
“Scottish training, started in 2007, has completely failed to stop Sri Lanka’s police from torturing and murdering suspects.
“How much more proof is needed before the Scottish Government puts a stop to this hideous collusion?”
Siobhan Reardon, Amnesty International’s Programme Director in Scotland, said: “Human rights campaigners and family members of people subjected to enforced disappearance were threatened and arrested, and fatal attacks on religious minorities went unpunished.
“We expect the college to ensure Scottish police engaged in training in Sri Lanka are not only aware of the serious human rights violations that have taken place but do not in any way facilitate training that would lead to further brutality.”
Scottish Tamils also reacted to the news with anger.
Uma Rajah said: “It’s infuriating to think the police forces in Scotland could be implicated in these things.
“Being involved in other countries’ affairs is politicised. It’s impossible to be neutral in that situation.
“Scottish police have been directly taking a role with a police force known to have intense human rights violations. It’s scary.”
Gordon Thomson, Business Development Manager, Police Scotland College, Tulliallan said: “Police Scotland is currently engaged in Sri Lanka on a project funded by the British High Commission, to develop a National Police Academy with the capacity to deliver accredited programmes.
“The current contract expires 31 March 2015, however we are in dialogue with the British High Commission about a new contract for 2015-2016 which will further the work already undertaken to develop the National Police Academy, as yet not confirmed.”