British police accused of helping 'train Saudi torturers'

British police accused of helping 'train Saudi torturers'
A training partnership between British policing experts and Saudi Arabia's interior ministry has expanded despite Riyadh's continued clampdown on Saudi activists
2 min read
08 June, 2016
Protesters demand the release of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi [AFP]

British police are training Saudi security in skills that may be used to facilitate the torture and execution of political dissidents in the kingdom, a UK rights charity has warned.

This is in reference to training programmes that have been offered by Britain's College of Policing, that teach personnel from the Saudi interior ministry detective work and state-of-the-art forensics techniques. The courses are said to be a huge money-maker for the police training school.

Reprieve, an anti-death penalty group based in London, has said that an internal document reveals a long-standing partnership between the college and the Saudi government, UK newspaper The Independent reported.

This is despite Riyadh's iron-fisted campaign of imprisonment and execution of activists following the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. 

"It is scandalous that British police are training Saudi Arabian officers in techniques which they privately admit could lead to people being arrested, tortured and sentenced to death," said Maya Foa, Reprieve's death penalty team director.

"The training Britain delivered included hi-tech skills that could easily have been used to target pro-democracy activists in Saudi Arabia."

A report published by the charity shows that the college's management acknowledged the possibility that "the skills being trained are used to identify individuals who later go on to be tortured or subjected to human rights abuses", and even expected public criticism of the partnership.

These reservations, however, did not deter the college from expanding the training programme to include techniques relating to cyber crime, Reprieve said.

The programme also offers technical expertise in decrypting hard drives, retrieving deleted files, voice recognition and trawling CCTV systems.

While this know-how could be used to crack down on human rights activists in the kingdom, the college has described the broad array of techniques on sale as an "income generating business opportunity".

According to The Independent, the UK's Foreign Office has said that the sharing of expertise is being used to improve Saudi Arabia's justice system, which includes upgrading human rights compliance, rehabilitation for abuse victims and legal aid.

A spokeswoman also told the London-based news website that, "It is not good enough to merely criticise other countries from the side lines."

"Only by working with Saudi Arabia are we able to bring about the changes we would like to see in the country."