Responding to a request from former Scottish Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill, for the correspondence between Police Scotland and the British High Commission, detailing the decision to pause the training programme for Sri Lankan police; Amanda Milling , Co-Chair of the Conservative Party, maintained that the FCO has “no plans to publish this correspondence”.
She further added that whilst the police training is currently under review; “Police Scotland officers have not travelled to Sri Lanka since the start of the coronavirus pandemic for public health reasons”. The statement comes after a damning report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) which highlighted the ongoing abuses by Sri Lanka’s Police forces which include arbitrary detentions, torture and extrajudicial killings. HRW urged for international partners to cease engagement with “abusive Sri Lankan law enforcement”.
“Sri Lanka’s police seem intent on building on their past record of serious abuses, instead of cleaning up their act,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW.
Following on this report, Police Scotland suddenly announced that they had paused their training programme as early as May contradicting a statement they had put out just two weeks prior. This statement maintained that they were "halfway through a three-year programme of work" funded by the British High Commissioner for Colombo.
Investigative journalist Phil Miller noted his surprise at the sudden reversal given the years of campaigning that had already taken place against this training programme. He added that whilst the programme had been temporarily suspended, “it remains to be seen whether this will be cancelled or if Britain will re-enter an agreement before any genuine political change”.
Calls to end the training
Following the publication of the HRW report multiple Scottish MPs have called for an end to this training programme and for further details on how they are assessing their intervention. Thus far, Police Scotland nor the British government have responded to these requests.
Numerous human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch, Freedom from Torture, Pax Christi Scotland, and the Sri Lanka Peace and Justice Campaign, have urged Scottish Justice Secretary Keith Brown to officially cut ties with Sri Lanka’s police out of concern over human rights abuses.
Kenny MacAskill has warned that the training is being used by Sri Lankan authorities to cover up their human rights abuses and has maintained that the:
“Scottish Government must intervene and direct Police Scotland to cease all involvement in the training of police forces in Sri Lanka until such times as its government adheres to and upholds internationally accepted human rights”.