Police Scotland will not continue training the Sri Lankan police force, it was announced last week. Chief Constable Iain Livingstone confirmed during a meeting with the Scottish Police Authority on 24 November 2021 that no further deployments to Sri Lanka will be made during the remainder of the current contract, which ends in March 2022, and that Police Scotland will not seek to renew the contract.
Police Scotland have been training the Sri Lankan police since 2006 and have made over 90 deployments to Sri Lanka. Police Scotland has previously maintained that their engagement in Sri Lanka promotes human rights and gender equality; however, the human rights record of the Sri Lankan police force is very troubling, and human rights organisations report that torture and sexual abuse remain endemic in Sri Lankan policing.
Read more about Police Scotland’s training of the Sri Lankan police here.
Police Scotland have made the right decision to end the training. A big thank you to all of you, our supporters, who helped us raise awareness of this issue and written to your MSPs.
This campaign success is the result of a collective effort by activists, human rights organisations, journalists, and politicians over a number of years. The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) first raised concerns about this training programme around five years ago and have continued to campaign for cancellation alongside investigative journalist Phil Miller, who exposed details of the training through his work. The Sri Lanka Campaign has worked in partnership with Human Rights Watch, Freedom From Torture, and Pax Christi Scotland on a joint campaign, and we have worked with Tamil groups, politicians, and journalists to call on Police Scotland to cancel the training. While we can’t name everyone here, special thanks go to Kenny MacAskill MP and Mercedes Villalba MSP who have both made a big impact with their work. Further attention was drawn to the contract by Tamil activists who campaigned in Glasgow during COP26 and by increasing interest from the Scottish press, including the Sunday Post.
We would like to extend our gratitude to all those who have worked on this issue over the years and contributed to this successful outcome.
However, it is vital that this training contract is not simply transferred to another police force by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). The FCDO must divert funding away from these training contracts and use that money to instead promote human rights, justice, and accountability in Sri Lanka.
The FCDO must consult with civil society groups when conducting its Overseas Security and Justice Assistance (OSJA) and Joint Analysis of Conflict and Stability (JACS) assessments regarding future operations in Sri Lanka. The OSJA and JACAS review processes, which are currently in progress, are designed to ensure that the UK’s overseas security and justice engagements do not jeopardise human rights in those countries. Consulting civil society groups during the assessment process can help to ensure that the UK does not provide cover for human rights abuses in Sri Lanka in the future.
The UK government must also halt its relationship with Sri Lanka’s security forces by ending all training and withdrawing the UK’s Defence Advisor in Colombo. Just as Police Scotland’s training provided legitimacy for the Sri Lankan police force, the UK Defence Advisor’s meetings with army leaders accused of mass atrocity crimes – including Army Commander Shavendra Silva – boosts the reputation of a military that operates with total impunity.
Read more about the UK Defence Advisor here.