UK Foreign Office refuses to release files on support for mercenaries in Sri Lanka

The UK Foreign Office is resisting publishing files relating to its diplomatic support for British mercenaries in the 1980s in Sri Lanka despite the Metropolitan police launching an unprecedented inquiry into potential war crimes by those individuals, The Guardian reported.

Investigative journalist Phil Miller is taking the FCO to an information tribunal over the release of files dating back to 1985 on Keenie Meenie Services (KMS), one of Britain’s first mercenary companies.

The files relate to the extent of UK diplomatic support for the training of Sri Lankan security forces by the British mercenary company.

The scoping exercise into allegations of war crimes committed by the firm launched by the Met in March has now been elevated into a fully fledged inquiry – the first of its kind.

Miller, the author of a book and film on British involvement in the Sri Lankan civil war, said the FCO had been obstructive throughout his attempts to gain information and access to UK files. “They have sat on this evidence for years. You have to ask yourself why the UK government wants to keep a file about Keenie Meenie hidden from the Tamil community until 2046.”

The UK Government is citing international relations and information provided in confidence for keeping the 1985 files secret. Its decision has been endorsed by a national advisory body at the National Archives based in Kew.

The Government’s own rules say diplomatic files should normally be released after 20 years, not 60, as stipulated with this file. The file relates to the extent of UK government support for the mercenaries training Sri Lankan security forces, and the roles they were asked to undertake.

The Met inquiry may be seen to weaken the case for suppression of the file. Lord Howe was the UK foreign secretary at the time, while the Asia minister was Lady Young, a former leader of the House of Lords. Both have since died. (Colombo Gazette)

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