British MPs have condemned the UK Foreign Secretary, Elizabeth Truss, following her meeting with Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister, GL Peiris, in which they discussed "boosting economic ties", "deepening trade and investment links", and "strengthening security ties".
The meeting follows the appointment of the convicted extremist monk, Galagodaaththe Gnanasara, to head a Presidential Task Force focused on achieving "One Country One Law". Responding to this announcement, the International Commission of Jurists have raised concerns over the targetting of religious minorities tweeting:
Responding to this meeting, MP for Ilford North, Wes Streeting, questioned the government's commitment to human rights tweeting:
It is simply appalling that there is no mention of human rights here. The Government of Sri Lanka flouted commitments made in UK-led UNHRC resolutions and presides over ongoing human rights abuses today. Has our Government abandoned its commitment to this issue? https://t.co/UrHrjDIpli
— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) October 27, 2021
MP for Harrow West, Gareth Thomas similarly criticised the meeting tweeting:
Extraordinary that @trussliz doesn’t mention any discussion about human rights or war crimes or ending the culture of impunity - all those British residents with strong links to Sri Lanka deserved better from our Foreign Secretary https://t.co/rAnjPNVytt
— Gareth Thomas MP (@GarethThomasMP) October 28, 2021
MP for Mitcham and Morden, Siobhain McDonagh, further highlighted the slaughter of Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan government tweeting:
Obviously 40,000 disappeared Tamils don't count for much?? The UK government lines up with a PM who bombed his own people and cluster bombed their hospitals. https://t.co/HZm1qDtole
— Siobhain McDonagh MP (@Siobhain_Mc) October 28, 2021
Truss's predecessor, Dominic Raab, had previously been caught in a leaked recording advocating for the UK to advance trade deals with countries that failed to adhere to international human rights agreements.
Condemnation of police training
The mention of "strengthening security ties" has raised particular alarm with Police Scotland coming under increased scrutiny for its role in providing training to Sri Lankan police officers.
In August, Human Rights Watch called upon Sri Lanka's international partners to cease engagement with "abusive law enforcement agencies". In their report, they detailed ongoing abuses including arbitrary detention, torture, and extrajudicial killings.
This issue has become a growing concern with a number of MPs speaking out against the issue. Speaking in Scottish parliament, Mercedes Villalba, Labour MSP for North East Scotland, slammed the Police Scotland's training stating:
"That unit is proactively offering training and technical advice to some of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to human rights abuses. Several organisations, from Pax Christi Scotland to Freedom from Torture, have highlighted that the Sri Lankan regime is engaging in the use of torture and state surveillance of human rights defenders. Police Scotland has claimed that its training activities with the Sri Lankan police are helping to promote gender equality and tackle gender-based violence, but, as recently as August, the Sri Lankan police confirmed that cases of intimate partner violence would not be taken to court. Therefore, how can anyone say that that training is working?" she stated.
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