UK po­lice earn mil­lions from states that use death penalty

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Lu­cas Amin

Bri­tish po­lice have earned mil­lions of pounds by train­ing of­fi­cers in re­pres­sive regimes in the Mid­dle East, in­clud­ing Saudi Ara­bia.

The Col­lege of Polic­ing, an arms-length body of the Home Of­fice, has earned more than £3.3m by pro­vid­ing “in­ter­na­tional lead­er­ship” and “in­ter­na­tional strate­gic lead­er­ship” train­ing to po­lice forces in 23 coun­tries since it was set up by Theresa May in 2012.

It is UK gov­ern­ment pol­icy to op­pose the death penalty in all cir­cum­stances. How­ever, doc­u­ments ob­tained by the Guardian un­der free­dom of in­for­ma­tion leg­is­la­tion show that 89% of the money earned by the col­lege came from coun­tries where the death penalty still ex­ists.

Emily Thorn­berry, the shadow for­eign sec­re­tary, ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of putting trade deals be­fore hu­man rights. She said: “It is yet an­other ex­am­ple that – when trade deals and se­cu­rity al­liances are on offer in the Mid­dle East and else­where around the world – Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment throws any con­cern for hu­man rights out the win­dow.”

The Saudi Ara­bian min­istry of the in­te­rior is the col­lege’s biggest lead­er­ship train­ing client and has paid it more than £1.2m for 815 days’ train­ing over the past six years. The same min­istry has ex­e­cuted at least 641 peo­ple since 2012, ac­cord­ing to Re­prieve, a char­ity which cam­paigns against the death penalty.

The govern­ments of Bahrain, UAE, Oman and Kuwait, four coun­tries where the death penalty re­mains le­gal, to­gether pro­vided an­other £1.3m of the col­lege’s rev­enue. The col­lege earned £800,000 from 18 other coun­tries. These in­cluded In­done­sia, Sin­ga­pore and Botswana, which all ex­e­cuted pris­on­ers in 2016.

The Home Of­fice says Bri­tish train­ing is de­signed to im­prove hu­man rights com­pli­ance but cam­paign­ers say there is a lack of ev­i­dence to prove this claim. While Saudi of­fi­cials were re­ceiv­ing Bri­tish train­ing, the num­ber of pris­on­ers ex­e­cuted an­nu­ally rose from at least 79 in 2012 to at least 154 in 2016.

Maya Foa, di­rec­tor of Re­prieve, said: “The Col­lege of Polic­ing ap­pears to have made a sub­stan­tial profit from a mas­sive crack­down on dis­sent in the Gulf since the Arab spring. Min­is­ters say this train­ing will im­prove Gulf polic­ing, but in re­al­ity things have got worse, as UK-trained bod­ies in Bahrain and Saudi Ara­bia have in­creased their use of tor­ture and the death penalty for ju­ve­niles and pro­test­ers.”

The home af­fairs com­mit­tee found last year that the col­lege “has been put un­der pres­sure by the Home Of­fice to raise rev­enue” by pro­vid­ing over­seas train­ing. The com­mit­tee stated its con­cern that the “pro­vi­sion of train­ing … some­times with for­eign govern­ments which have been the sub­ject of sus­tained crit­i­cism, threat­ens the in­tegrity of the very brand of Bri­tish polic­ing that the col­lege is try­ing to pro­mote”.

Fol­low­ing this crit­i­cism, the Home Of­fice con­ducted an in­ter­nal au­dit of the col­lege that as­sessed its rep­u­ta­tion man­age­ment. The au­dit states that “the col­lege takes ap­pro­pri­ate steps to man­age its rep­u­ta­tion in terms of the in­ter­na­tional work it takes on”.

The Home Of­fice said: “The gov­ern­ment’s polic­ing pro­grammes in the Mid­dle East, led by the Col­lege of Polic­ing, are specif­i­cally de­signed to im­prove the jus­tice sys­tem by im­prov­ing hu­man rights com­pli­ance and re­duc­ing the like­li­hood of mis­car­riages of jus­tice.”

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