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Police Scotland defends training contract with Sri Lanka

Photograph: Yardstick Films

Police Scotland has come out in defence of a contract with the Sri Lanka, which included training of Sri Lanka’s notorious Special Task Force, despite continued concerns over the use of torture by security forces.

In response to a freedom of information request submitted by The Ferret, Superintendent Shaun McKillop, head of Police Scotland’s International Development and Innovation Unit, defended the relationship with Sri Lankan security forces, that has reportedly stretched back to nearly 10 years.

“The British High Commission review our training on a regular basis, as well as our own monitoring,” said Superintendent McKillop. “Sri Lanka remains one of the key places for the UK government, so we continue to work for them through the conflict, stability and security fund.

In December, undercover footage provided by Yardstick films revealed deep ties between Scotland’s police force and Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force – a paramilitary unit that has been accused of directly carrying out war crimes.

Ann Hannah Acting Director of Policy and Advocacy at Freedom from Torture (FfT),an organisation that works with Tamil torture survivors from Sri Lanka, commented that there was a “lack of focus on human rights issues, especially torture prevention”.

“Recent public threats by the Sri Lankan defence attaché in London suggest that there is a culture of impunity that remains unchallenged,” she added. “Without reforming the structures that have allowed torture to continue and signalling publicly that this is an essential pillar of engagement, this sends a message to perpetrators that they can continue to act without consequence.”

Superintendent McKillop meanwhile acknowledged that concerns had been raised regarding Sri Lanka’s human rights record and torture, but continued to defend engagement with its security forces.

“I understand the concerns,” he said. “We absolutely understand the concerns, and have regular conversation with the British High Commission and Sri Lankan Police about these concerns.”

“Because we are working with them, we are able to have these conversations with them. It’s not ideal but we will continue to work and do what we can to improve that situation.”

See more from The Ferret here.