A reply to a freedom of information request by Police Scotland noted that its international contracts in 2017 included a training programme in Sri Lanka, a state accused of gross human rights abuses including Police torture, The Ferret reported.
The Ferret requested information (FoI) on training Police Scotland provided to other countries last year, both here and abroad, plus details of projects with private organisations.
The FoI reply said that Scots officers were sent to Jamaica and Sri Lanka to train their respective police forces, two projects criticised by human groups.
In reply, however, Superintendent Shaun McKillop of Police Scotland, said he fully acknowledged such concerns but added that not to engage with these nations would mean having no influence over improving the situation in the future.
“Sri Lanka remains one of the key places for the UK government, so we continue to work for them through the conflict, stability and security fund,” McKillop said. “We’ve done some work for the UK government in Pakistan, looking at crime investigation in the Punjab. We’ve also worked for the Scottish Government in Malawi and Zambia.”
Freedom from Torture (FfT) – a charity that treats torture survivors from Sri Lanka in Scotland – said it was concerned there was a “lack of focus on human rights issues, especially torture prevention”.
Ann Hannah, of FfT, said torture continues to be a problem in Sri Lanka. She added: “Recent public threats by the Sri Lankan defence attaché in London suggest that there is a culture of impunity that remains unchallenged.
“Without reforming the structures that have allowed torture to continue and signalling publicly that this is an essential pillar of engagement, this sends a message to perpetrators that they can continue to act without consequence.”
When asked why state torture remains a problem in Sri Lanka nearly a decade after Police Scotland began its work there, McKillop said it was important to keep engaging with the country.
He said: “The British High Commission review our training on a regular basis, as well as our own monitoring. We are continuing to work with them and to press them. I understand the concerns, we absolutely understand the concerns, and have regular conversation with the British High Commission and Sri Lankan Police about these concerns.
“Because we are working with them, we are able to have these conversations with them. It’s not ideal but we will continue to work and do what we can to improve that situation.”