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Scottish Justice Minister accused of misleading parliament over Sri Lankan police training


Scottish Justice Minister, Keith Brown, has come under fire for misleading members of Scottish parliament as to why Police Scotland has suspended its training programme with Sri Lanka's police forces, which have implicated in grevious human rights violations.

In August it was reported that Police Scotland had suspended its training programme since May pending a human rights review by the UK Foreign Office. This was later reaffirmed in a letter to Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba.

However, in September Brown provided a conflicting written statement noting that the reason for suspending the programme  was "due to the coronavirus pandemic”. Villalba slammed Brown's response noting that this raised an "issue of transparency".

“I wish to know if the Minister or Scottish Government officials had discussions with Police Scotland or the British High Commission about the review of the OSJA assessment and if so, were concerns touched upon which have been raised publicly relating to Sri Lanka’s records on human rights abuses and repression?” she stated.

Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie has claimed that Scottish officers had not travelled to Sri Lanka since February 2020 and that once the Foreign Office's review was completed a decision would be taken about Police Scotland’s future work in Sri Lanka. He reassured Villalba there would be no further engagement with police there until then.

He further claimed:

“There is a high level of governance and scrutiny to all our international activity, with human rights and the values of Police Scotland at the heart of what we do in order to reach out and support others towards the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

The Sunday Post reports that in May 2016, former Chief Constable Phil Gormley was accused of “​hypocrisy​” by a member of the Home Affairs Committee at Westminster when it was revealed the force received almost £750,000 in a three-year period.

Over the years numerous human rights organisations have called for the suspension of Police Scotland's training programme with Sri Lanka. Both the International Truth and Justice Project as well as Human Rights Watch have warned that further engagement with "Sri Lanka's abusive law enforcement agencies" will only lend it further credibility. 

The organisations which are speaking out against the training contract are Pax Christi, a Catholic peace charity focusing on human rights in Sri Lanka, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Truth and Justice Project, and the Sri Lankan Peace and Justice Campaign. A number of prominent Members of Scottish Parliament have also spoken out including former Justice Minister for Scottish Parliament, Kenny Macaskill.

Read more here.

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