Last week, The Herald and The Times quoted assistant chief constable Gary Ritchie saying that Police Scotland’s training of Sri Lankan police had been paused pending a review to be undertaken together with the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) in London which funds the programme through the Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund (CSSF).

We are urgently seeking clarification from Police Scotland and the FCDO on the nature of the reported pause and planned review. We know that activities have already been significantly reduced due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Together with Human Rights Watch, Freedom From Torture, and Pax Christi Scotland, we have written to the Scottish Justice Minister to ask for details of the review, including when it will be completed and whether the outcome will be made public. We call on the Scottish Government to use its powers to halt the training until the Sri Lankan government and police demonstrate genuine improvements in human rights and accountability.

Sri Lankan police

As we reported in a previous blog, since 2006 Police Scotland have made 90 deployments to Sri Lanka, training and supporting the Sri Lankan police force. Police Scotland says the training programmes are designed to improve respect for human rights. Recently, this training has been focused on improving police responses to gender based violence. In the past it has also involved support for the development of “community policing” including training to the notorious Special Task Force “to manage public gatherings and protests”. Yet despite over a decade of training, there is credible evidence that Sri Lankan police continue to be responsible for torture and extrajudicial killings.