Sri Lanka’s elite police force, the Special Task Force, was formed after intensive advice from British security experts, according to a new report by the International Human Rights Association Bremen.
The report Exporting police death squads - From Armagh to Trincomalee, supplementary to an earlier document detailing Britain’s involvement in Sri Lanka’s war against Tamils, says British security officials, in the early 1980s, advised senior Sri Lankan policemen on the UK’s counter-terrorism experience in Northern Ireland, even arranging for them to visit Belfast.
British mercenaries are also thought to have trained the STF, which is implicated in several cases of human rights abuses, including abductions and killings, at its inception.
"The new evidence reveals that Sri Lanka's Special Task Force was created only after intensive advice from British diplomats about UK counter-insurgency policy in Northern Ireland, where a similar police commando unit had recently shot dead six people. This raises important questions about UK State complicity in designing Sri Lanka's death squad,” the report’s author Phil Miller told the Tamil Guardian.
Kapila Jayasekara, the commander of the STF unit suspected to be behind the killing of 5 students in Trincomalee in 2006, is also reported to have been trained by British security company KMS Ltd, which employed retired SAS soldiers, some of whom were deployed in the Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
“Declassified documents show how close the mercenary company was to the British government, and that it is still trading today albeit under a different name," Mr Miller said.
The current company, now trading under Saladin Security Ltd, counts former defence minister Archibal Hamilton, who now sits in the House of Lords, as a former director.
Banned interrogation techniques, including stress positions, hooding and white noise, are also alleged to have been taught to Sri Lankan security forces by the British mercenaries.
The report also details how British intelligence was monitoring the activities of the Tamil diaspora before the armed conflict erupted in earnest.
“[Sri Lankan] President Jayewardene has sent his Foreign Minister urgently to London to deliver a personal message to the Prime Minister about the Tamil problem. We believe it relates to the activities in London of the ‘Tamil Coordinating Committee’ (TCC), a small group of Tamil residents in London who produce skilful propaganda but who, according to the Security Service [MI5], have little capacity to mount demonstrations,” a confidential briefing paper for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said.
The briefing instructed the then-prime minister to tell the Sri Lankan foreign minister that her government “Regret that Tamil Co-ordinating Committee operates in London. We keep a close eye on its activities and shall continue to do so.”
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