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Sri Lanka and Police Scotland – Letter to MSPs

Photograph copyright DC Thomson

Pax Christi Scotland, with Human Rights Watch, Freedom From Torture, and the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, is campaigning to stop Police Scotland training police personnel from Sri Lanka, despite the human rights violations in Sri Lanka that have been condemned by the UN, UK and others. With  these organisations, we have composed a letter (link to correspondence page) which we hope members will send to their MSPs. Copy the letter, then go to  https://www.paxchristiscotland.org/contact/,  scroll to ‘Contact your politicians’,  enter your postcode and choose the ‘list MSPs’ link. Paste the letter into the box that will appear. When you click ‘send’, you’ll get an email asking you to confirm. This is an important human rights campaign vital to securing peace for very vulnerable people – thank you for helping. 

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Email subject line: Police Scotland must stop training Sri Lanka’s abusive police force 

 Dear MSP 

Thank you for your work representing our constituency at this difficult time. I am writing to express my grave concern about  Police Scotland’s training of Sri Lanka’s police force which is renowned for torture and other human rights violations. 

Police Scotland has been training police in Sri Lanka for 15 years. Scottish officers have made over 90 deployments to Sri Lanka while senior Sri Lankan police officers have also been welcomed at the Scottish Police College. The current contract is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO). 

Police Scotland have trained officers from a number of Sri Lankan police units implicated in serious human rights violations. In January, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported on the “persistence of longstanding and endemic patterns of custodial deaths, use of torture and other ill-treatment, and extrajudicial killings by law enforcement officials with impunity”. Sri Lanka would therefore be able to refer to the provision of international training, including by Police Scotland, to defend itself when its human rights record is scrutinised. 

Since the election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka’s president in 2019, there has been a marked deterioration in the human rights situation. President Rajapaksa blocked accountability for those accused of serious human rights violations during and after the country’s 26-year-long civil war, which ended in 2009. Instead, alleged perpetrators with command responsibility have been promoted to senior positions in the current government, and there has been almost no accountability or justice for victims and their families.

A new UN resolution on Sri Lanka – championed by the UK – was adopted in March 2021. The High Commissioner for Human Rights has called upon governments to take steps to protect human rights and uphold accountability in Sri Lanka. In June, a European parliament resolution calling upon the European Union to review law enforcement engagement with Sri Lanka was passed. The training by Police Scotland is out of step with the international response. 

As a member of Scottish society, I am ashamed and affronted by this training. It does not accord with the principles we strive to uphold in our own communities. In relations with our neighbours overseas, Scotland’s professed commitment to human rights protection must remain steadfast. Police Scotland must restore trust and demonstrate their commitment to Scottish values and those of the communities they serve by ending this relationship.

The current contract is suspended due to the global pandemic. It has recently been stated by Police Scotland that activities under the programme were paused in May pending a review of the human rights assessment. I urge you to support the campaign to bring the contract to an end altogether by publicly opposing the training and raising these matters with the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, the Chief Constable and the Scottish Police Authority.  

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely 

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