Revealed: how Scots police trained Sri Lankan cops linked to human rights abuse

Tony Gosling tony at
Sun Nov 17 01:28:48 GMT 2013

Revealed: how Scots police trained Sri Lankan 
cops linked to human rights abuse
Special Report By Judith Duffy - Saturday 7 September 2013

CAMPAIGNERS have called for a review of the 
involvement of Scottish police in training Sri 
Lankan security forces amid concerns over the country's human rights record.
More than 3500 Sri Lankan police officers - 
including some senior commanders - have received 
training from the Scottish Police College (SPC) 
since 2007 through projects funded by the UK and Scottish governments.
An investigation by not-for-profit research group 
Corporate Watch also found the SPC is involved in 
spearheading a project to help to set up a 
National Police Academy in Sri Lanka. Most of the 
training involves Scottish officers ­travelling 
to the island, but in some cases Sri Lankan police are brought to Scotland.
Amnesty International in ­Scotland has details of 
Sri Lankan police assisting government commandos 
who opened fire on civilians, and the murder of detainees in police custody.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay 
last week launched an attack on the Sri Lankan 
government's human rights record following a 
week-long visit, citing police intimidation of 
priests, journalists and human rights advocates. 
Pillay also talked of dissenting voices being "permanently silenced".
Phil Miller, from Corporate Watch, said: "She 
reported the country was heading in an 
increasingly authoritarian direction and 
complained about how the police had been 
harassing people who she had been trying to interview.
"The police were prepared to be abusive even when 
the UN was there and it's the Scottish Police 
College who have been doing a lot of training over the past six years.
"I think that raises some quite serious 
questions. If the country is going in a more 
authoritarian direction and Scottish police have 
been helping train the Sri Lankan police for the 
past six years, are they just helping to develop 
the police state? Do they have any concerns that this project isn't working?"
The training by Scottish police officers took 
place both before and after the government's 
final counter-insurgency campaign against the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009.
A recent UN report suggested that as many as 
70,000 civilians died in the last few months of 
the war, mostly killed by government forces.
Campaigners say major concerns still remain over 
the country's human rights record.
Mark Bevan, programme director for Amnesty 
International in Scotland, said: "Unlawful 
detentions, torture, and enforced disappearances 
remain rife in Sri Lanka and go unpunished. It's 
shocking to think similar activity may have taken 
place while Scottish Police College training work 
and Scottish police officers were in the country.
"We would urge the college to investigate its 
engagement with the Sri Lankan police force and 
review their activity in light of Navi Pillay's report.
"Furthermore, we would expect them to take the 
strongest measures possible to ensure any 
Scottish police staff working with or in Sri 
Lanka to strongly condemn violations of human 
rights and in no way contribute to or suppresses 
reporting of these brutal violations."
A spokesman for Police Scotland said the SPC had 
an international reputation for the quality and 
integrity of its training packages, which are 
delivered in Scotland and across the world.
He said: "When the British Government supports 
justice and security projects, there are 
safeguards put in place to ensure any work does 
not contribute to human rights abuses and it has 
been clear from the outset that the training 
reform package in Sri Lanka, led by the SPC, aims 
to embed international standards in police training.
"There has also been ­widespread support for the 
project from opposition parties, UN and 
international humanitarian agency 
representatives, and non-governmental organisations."
The Scottish Government confirmed it funded a 
£400,000 training project which came to an end in 
March, with more than 3500 Sri Lankan officers receiving training.
A spokesperson said: "The aim of this project was 
to use the extensive expertise of the Scottish 
Police College and other agencies to develop a 
new model of community policing to help promote 
human rights in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is now 
classed as a middle income state. The decision to 
end funding was taken to allow the Scottish 
Government to focus on projects in poorer countries."
The Foreign Office said the Scottish Police 
College received funding of £236,042 from April 
2007 to March 2013 for work in Sri Lanka via the 
Conflict Pool fund, which aims to reduce the 
impact of conflict and instability around the world.
A spokeswoman added: "Our police training reform 
project in Sri Lanka, led by the SPC, aims to 
embed international standards in police training.
"Opposition parties, UN and international 
humanitarian agency representatives, NGOs and 
others have indicated their firm support for our project."
She added: "Reform projects such as this one take 
time. We believe that our continued support will 
have a positive impact, in the interests of all of Sri Lanka's communities."

For Corporate Watch report go to

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