Imagine walking in the streets of your hometown. You hear the breaks of an unlicenced white van screech behind you. You turn around to see what is happening and, before you know it, you are bundled into the vehicle.

You are blindfolded, handcuffed, gagged and driven for hours to an unknown location, where in a dark room you will be tortured and interrogated for months and for crimes that are little more than the fertile imaginings of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL). When you escape to the UK, your torturers continue to harass and brutalise you and those who you left behind.

This is the fate suffered by tens of thousands of Tamil nationals of Sri Lanka since the beginning of the armed conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE - an armed group which used to fight for an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka) in 1983.

The war ended in 2009 with the defeat and humiliation of the LTTE and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Tamils in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan Police (SLP) and the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) are chief amongst those systematically abducting, unlawfully detaining and torturing any Tamil individuals suspected as being in any way associated with the LTTE or espousing separatist ideas. Those who were lucky enough to successfully escape the country face years of surveillance, threats, and collective punishment as their families bear the continued wrath of the GoSL.

They have lost safety and security and their home. As their UK status as refugees confirm, they cannot return – the risk of persecution is too great.

200 of those Tamils who found refuge in the United Kingdom are now seeking justice for these ongoing crimes against humanity.

On 27 October 2021, we, as Global Rights Compliance LLP, filed a complaint with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague and the Metropolitan Police in the UK against a number of GoSL officials implicated in these crimes.

The President of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Secretary of Defence Kamal Gunaratne and a number of individuals who held command positions within the SLP and SLA over the last two decades must be held to account. Countless Tamils were abducted, detained, tortured, deported and persecuted for decades with impunity under their watch.

But instead President Gotabaya plays the role of distinguished statesman, soon to arrive in the UK for the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow between 31 October and 12 November 2021.

Since they will be arriving in Glasgow, the Scottish police are in a unique position to ensure that those among the Sri Lankan delegation credibly suspected of these heinous crimes are brought to justice. Rather than training the Sri Lankan police, they should be arresting them.

The SLP and its sub-branches Criminal Investigation Division, Terrorism Investigation Division and Special Task Force have been credibly accused of being involved in the abduction, detention and torture of Tamils by the United Nations as well as reputable non-governmental organisations such as the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Two hundred victims of their cruelty have now provided cogent evidence in support.

While the Scottish police have defended the training programme on the basis that it is designed to enhance the SLP’s respect for human rights, the fish rots from the head down.

As aptly put by Human Rights Watch, the “assistance risks appearing to endorse or lend legitimacy to agencies that are unwilling to improve their respect for human rights.” Of course, the training falls on deaf ears. Of course, international human rights organisations calling for the cancelling of the program are right.

Of course, the training programme should be “paused” until the UK Government reviews its appropriateness. 

The Convention against Torture (CAT) requires its States Parties to take into custody and investigate persons within their territory who are suspected of committing torture. Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, the UK should investigate, arrest and prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity.

In the face of such criminality, the UK government should understand that this and nothing else is appropriate.  


Authors: Wayne Jordash QC and Uzay Yasar Aysev of Global Rights Compliance.


GLOBAL RIGHTS COMPLIANCE (GRC) is a niche organisation that specialises in legal services associated with bringing accountability for atrocity crimes and other violations of international law. Drawing on decades of experience in conflict affected areas and transitional justice environments, our “root and branch” philosophy combines innovative full spectrum accountability strategies, building the capacity of states to implement international humanitarian and human rights standards, bespoke expertise in evidence gathering in conflict settings, and assisting communities to seek remedies for violations.