- British police provide training to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain
- Techniques used to identify and arrest people who are then tortured
BRITAIN was accused of complicity with the death penalty yesterday after a report revealed that police and security training is provided without safeguards to countries that torture and execute children.
International human rights organisation Reprieve suggested that there may have been a cover-up and demanded an end to support for death penalty states after freedom of information (FOI) requests revealed that officers from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have been trained in Britain without the required human rights checks being conducted.
Assessments are necessary before support and training is given to those states where arrests could lead to the death penalty.
Official guidance on the provision of overseas security and justice assistance said it should meet “our human rights obligations and values” and, before assistance is given, requests should also be considered by the International Police Assistance Board.
However Reprieve claims that its FOI requests found that no such assessments had been done by the UK College of Policing, which conducted the training.
The National Police Chiefs Council came under fire in June for continuing to provide training to Saudi police despite identifying a risk that “the skills being trained are used to identify individuals who later go on to be tortured or subjected to other human rights abuses.”
In November, the council said the publication of this information had been a mistake and it would not release similar documents in the future.
Both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia use the death penalty and have tortured people involved in anti-government or pro-reform protests.
In Saudi Arabia, Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher were all children when they were arrested for their involvement in demonstrations calling for reform. They are currently on death row awaiting execution.
In Bahrain, police officer Mohammed Ramadan faces the death penalty for having told interrogators while under torture that he had attacked other officers after joining a pro-democracy protest.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman claimed the government continues to raise concerns over the cases cited by Reprieve with the respective governments and that it “opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and in all countries.”
“The British government consistently and unreservedly condemns torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and it is a priority for us to combat it wherever and whenever it occurs.”
On the case of Mr Nimr and the two others convicted while they were juveniles, she said: “We expect that they will not be executed. Nevertheless, we continue to raise these cases with the Saudi authorities.”
But Maya Foa, who heads Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “At best this is incompetence, at worst a cover-up; either way, the result is that this training risks rendering the UK complicit in the death penalty.
“It is shocking that neither Police Scotland nor the UK College of Policing hold any information about what human rights assessments were undertaken before this training went ahead.
“The conclusion is that once again, the UK’s policy on the death penalty has been ignored. Support to police forces in death penalty states such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain must be suspended until they can show real progress — starting with scrapping the death sentences handed down to children and political protesters.”
The Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We are rightly proud of the British model of policing and it is not surprising that there is an international appetite to learn from the best.”
Britain has a long history of involvement in Bahrain, with many British citizens having served in top roles with its internal security services.
The most notorious was Ian Henderson, a colonial officer in Kenya and head of various police agencies in Bahrain from 1966 to 1998. He presided over torture and was accused by opposition groups of “masterminding a ruthless campaign of repression.”