Police Scotland had a contract that expired at the end of March this year to train Sri Lankan police officers and develop “ethical leadership” at its National Police Academy.
The project proved highly controversial at the outset in 2012 due to Sri Lanka’s appalling human rights record but Police Scotland defended the new relationship at the time, arguing that it was aiming to improve the human rights situation.
However, a new report from Freedom from Torture revealed that last year 17 Sri Lankan asylum seekers – including a child – who were tortured after President Maithripala Sirisena’s election in January 2015 were referred to the charity.
FfT’s report said police were among state actors alleged to have tortured people, prompting fresh concerns over the efficacy of Police Scotland’s training project.
Both FfT and Amnesty International have called for an immediate end to torture by the Sri Lankan regime and greater scrutiny of the programme which was funded by the British High Commission.
FfT said that in 2015 – for the fourth year running – Sri Lanka was the top country of origin for people referred to its services.
A spokeswoman added: “Freedom from Torture’s report, Tainted Peace, published in August 2015, reported on 148 Sri Lankan cases forensically documented by its Medical Legal Service between May 2009 and August 2014.”
“Since then the charity has completed medico legal reports (MLRs) on a further 100 cases. In addition, Freedom from Torture has received 17 referrals, to either its Medico-Legal Service or its therapeutic treatment services, for people – including a child in one case – tortured after President Sirisena’s election in January 2015.”
“They have reported torture by a range of state actors, including the Criminal Investigation Department, the Terrorism Investigation Department, the police, “security” and the army.”
Methods of torture included beatings, burning, rape and other forms of sexual violence, asphyxiation, electric shocks, mock executions, and stabbings.
FfT’s Tainted Peace report said detention conditions are dreadful in Sri Lanka, with many detainees held in darkness and deprived of adequate food and water. Seventy per cent of people were held in solitary confinement.
Regarding torture by the state, it added: “The high prevalence of burning with cigarettes or heated pieces of metal could reflect a policy of branding, not only to inflict long term psychological and physical damage, but to ensure that the individual is easily identifiable in future as having been of adverse interest to the authorities.”
People were slapped, punched or trampled on their heads, hands, feet, genitals and abdomen. Many reported losing consciousness – and coming around only to be tortured again.
Some of those who were subjected to water boarding or suffocated with the fumes of burning chillies or petrol said it was the worst form of torture they endured. (Colombo Gazette)