College of Policing in fresh controversy
Updated : 23 November
The College of Policing is involved in fresh controversy today concerning their training of police in countries that regularly use torture. In the summer it was revealed that they had training large numbers of Saudi and Bahraini police and that this training has aided them to arrest protestors who were then tortured.
On the BBC’s World at One radio programme there was an interview with a woman who’s husband had been arrested and disappeared for a month. She alleges he was “subjected to the worst kind of physical and psychological abuse”, they beat him brutally and concentrated these beatings on his genitals.
Reprieve has published a report detailing the allegations against Mohammed Ramadan. It now appears that the release of the information and documents about the College of Police’s activities was not meant to have happened and was as a result of ‘human error.’ From now on, details of the College’s activities will not be disclosed.
The Foreign Office maintains that the best way to improve human rights in these countries is by engagement and that we should not criticize from the sidelines. Crispin Blunt MP, chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said:
Human rights assessments are quite bleak [in these countries] and it is going to reinforce the arguments of those who are against engagement
Quit so. So the worse it is, the better the justification for our engagement. This might be fine of course if by ‘engagement’, there was some kind of visible or tangible improvement. But it seems our involvement makes matters worse not better. As Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve comments on their website:
It is scandalous that British police are training Saudi Arabian and Bahraini officers in techniques which they privately admit could lead to people being arrested, tortured and sentenced to death
Earlier in the year, the Home Affairs select committee strongly criticised the College of Policing and the secretive way they had gone about this work. The Chief executive had apparently been told by the Foreign and Colonial Office not to answer questions for reasons of commercial confidentiality and security.
The argument that closer integration with unpleasant regimes yields positive benefits could have some merit. If by trading, cultural contacts, training schemes, and other contacts – social or economic – good behaviour (however defined) rubs off onto the regime then that can be claimed as a benefit.
But the suspicion with the College of Policing and other commercial activities in the region, is that it is profit and money driven with little more than lip-service given to ethics and human rights. It is all of a piece with our arms sales to the Saudis which are causing such devastation in Yemen.
One would have expected that the College of Policing of all organisations, to have ethics and human rights at the top of their agenda. The police have some ground to make up following a number of scandals like Hillsborough. Helping repressive regimes to be more efficiently repressive hardly fits the bill. Making it secret is a tacit admission that they have something to hide.
Sources: Sputnik; The Guardian; Reprieve; World at One (BBC)
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