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UK Slammed Over 'Outrageous Secrecy' of Saudi, Bahraini Police Training Programs

© AFP 2021 / Mohammed Al-ShaikhMembers of the Saudi special police unit march during a military parade in Mecca on September 17, 2015.
Members of the Saudi special police unit march during a military parade in Mecca on September 17, 2015. - Sputnik International
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The UK government has been accused of "outrageous" secrecy over the British training of Saudi and Bahraini police forces, with human rights campaigners taking aim at a refusal to publish details about the relationship between UK police and their Gulf state counterparts.

The criticism comes after the UK National Police Chiefs' Council refused to publish information relating to the training provided to police officers in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, despite previously acknowledging that such work poses human rights risks.

According to human rights campaigners Reprieve, UK police chiefs are refusing to publish the information under Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation amid fears it could damage Britain's relationship with their Gulf allies.

​This comes after the police chiefs' council told the organization that "human error" was behind the publication of certain pieces of information relating to training programs earlier this year, noting that this information should have not been made public.

Former British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond boards a British military ship docked in Manama, Bahrain after helping lay a cornerstone for a new British military base being built in Bahrain, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. Britain hasn't had a permanent military base in Bahrain since its former colony declared independence from Britain in 1971, though close ties have continued. - Sputnik International
Bahrain: UK 'Over-Excited Cheerleader' of 'Flawed' Human Rights Program
The UK's College of Policing, which runs many of the police training programs in the Gulf countries, was criticized in June after it acknowledged that its training program in Saudi Arabia could be "used to identify individuals who later go on to be tortured". 

UK Must 'Stop Sweeping It Under the Carpet'

Since January 2015, UK police chiefs have approved ten projects to train foreign forces in countries with an identifiable human rights risk.

The list included three applications to work in Saudi Arabia and two in Bahrain, raising questions about the how UK training of foreign police forces could be used to apprehend people who later go on to be tortured or suffer other human rights violations.

​"This secrecy over what Britain's police teach repressive regimes is simply outrageous. There is a serious risk that British training is helping to arrest and sentence to death people accused of protesting against authoritarian governments in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and elsewhere," said Maya Foa, director of human rights organization Reprieve.

"The government needs to stop trying to sweep this under the carpet, and come clean on the training it provides and what steps — if any — it takes to protect human rights."

​Concerns have surrounded the training of Saudi police in cyber forensic techniques, leading to suggestions these methods could be used to arrest peaceful protestors who then could receive the death penalty.

Security forces in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have been widely condemned for their repression of anti-government protestors, with juveniles among those in Saudi Arabia sentenced to death for using mobile phones to participate in non-violent demonstrations.

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