Scotland’s police service will stop training officers in Sri Lanka after concerns were raised over human rights abuses in the country.
Since 2013 Police Scotland’s international development and innovation unit, based in Tulliallan, has been running training programmes on sexual and gender-based violence to officers in the South Asian country.
There were calls for the ties to be cut, along with accusations the force was helping to cover-up alleged abuses in Sri Lanka.
Police Scotland has now confirmed it will no longer be training Sri Lankan officers.
Human rights concerns
Campaigners from Human Rights Watch said there had been concerns since President Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power in 2019.
They say his administration blocked accountability for abuses linked to the country’s 26-year civil war, which ended in 2009, as well as facilitating torture and keeping tabs on victims, their families and human rights defenders.
It is brilliant Scotland did this.”
– Frances Harrison, International Truth and Justice Project director
Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie said: “Police Scotland has been advised there will be no requests for support in Sri Lanka during the remaining five months of the current contract, and we reached the decision not to seek to renew the contract, or engage in any contracts or work, to support the Sri Lanka Police Service.
“Police Scotland seeks to make optimum use of its own capability and resources, ensuring they are best directed where they can be most effective and create a positive, lasting contribution.
“We are keen to continue to support conflict, stability and security funded programmes of work delivered across the world by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and focus on efforts to prevent harm at source while stabilising communities beyond our boundaries by innovating and sharing best practice.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic Police Scotland has not run any training programmes in Sri Lanka since February 2021, and it officially paused this in May 2021 pending a review.
Initiative ‘sets an example to Westminster’
The International Truth and Justice Project has welcomed the move, saying Police Scotland is setting an example to Westminster and the rest of the world.
Frances Harrison, the project’s director, said: “It is brilliant Scotland did this.
“We had hoped it would come from the Foreign Office because they do the assessments and have the relationship with the high commission, but the fact Police Scotland took the initiative sets an example to Westminster.”