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Undercover footage reveals Scottish police ties to war-crimes linked Sri Lankan troops

Photograph: Yardstick Films

Secret filming at the Scottish Police academy revealed deep ties between Scotland’s police force and Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force – a notorious paramilitary unit that has been accused of directly carrying out war crimes.

Undercover footage provided by Yardstick films shows an interview with a manager of Police Scotland's international training unit, who said, "We know there are issues”. “We know the previous President was being taken for war crimes,” he added. “Yeah. The choices are we do nothing or we go in. UK government's position was we want to go in and do something."

Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force – commonly known as the STF – has been accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings and torture. A recently published report by the Associated Press confirmed that in 2017, cases of torture were still being reported by Tamil asylum seekers fleeing the island.

"We didn't teach them in that [torture], we taught, erm..." said the manager in the footage, before adding, "So we taught them through an international vocational award in community policing."

The training program is entirely funded by the British taxpayer, with the UK Foreign Office paying Police Scotland from the overseas aid budget. The project will cost over a million pounds, writes Phil Miller in Vice UK.

Sri Lankan police have also confirmed the existence of the training programs, with a senior Sri Lankan police officer telling the UN that "about 600 police officers of the inspector rate and the above ranks, including CID, TID and other investigative bureaus of Sri Lanka Police, have attended the programme".

In response to the latest revelations a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said:

"The UK has made a long-term commitment to improving human rights in Sri Lanka and is dedicated to helping the country to rebuild and move on from three decades of civil conflict. Encouraging and supporting the Sri Lankan Police Service to improve their policing approach is a key part of that work.

"We have been providing technical support to the Sri Lankan Police Service and its National Police Academy, to strengthen professional standards including a gender sensitive and human rights compliant approach – in line with Sri Lanka's UN Human Rights Council commitments.

A Scottish government spokesperson reiterated the FCO’s views stating that

“Sri Lanka has only recently emerged from a long and terrible civil war, requiring the support of the international community to build a strong and functioning criminal justice system, based on human rights and ethics."

The Police Scotland website still displays a photograph of Sri Lanka’s STF, stating,

Drawing from our experience in Probationer Training in Scotland, Police Scotland designed and implemented a range of bespoke entry level training programmes on behalf of the Sri Lanka Police Service that are in keeping with current international standards. 

All of these training programmes are fully accredited and have a direct influence on the professionalism of policing within Sri Lanka.


See the full piece by Phil Miller and footage from Yardstick films on Vice UK here.

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