The UK police have come under heavy fire for refusing to shed more light on their ties with the Bahraini regime, which is accused of massive violations of human rights.
The British College of Policing (CoP), which sets standards for the UK police and offers international training deals, has recently tried to dodge a freedom of information request to elaborate on a deal to train Bahraini officers, The Guardian reported Monday.
In its response to a request by the campaign group Reprieve, the college admitted that it has been routinely training forces from Bahrain’s interior ministry since 2013. It also confirmed that some of its personnel were stationed in the Persian Gulf country for training purposes.
However, the college refused to offer a more detailed response about “the specific nature of [its] work” and sought to justify this by citing concerns over “commercial interests”, “international relations” and “law enforcement.”
In fact, the CoP avoided the answer by resorting to every single exemption that is allowed for by freedom of information laws.
“The college’s culture of secrecy around international training must end now,” said director of Reprieve’s death penalty team Maya Foa. “[It] must come clean about its business in Bahrain."
The Bahraini police have long been engaged in a heavy-handed crackdown on anti-regime protesters who have staged numerous demonstrations since February 14, 2011, calling on the ruling Al Khalifah monarchs to relinquish power.
Troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — themselves repressive Arab regimes — have been deployed to the country ever since to assist the Manama government in its crackdown on pro-democracy rallies.
Together, the oppressive forces have killed and injured hundreds of people, while arresting thousands more and subjecting them to torture in prison.
According to the Human Rights Watch, the torture methods include electric shocks, prolonged suspension in painful positions, severe beatings, threats to be raped and killed, forced standing, exposure to extreme cold, and sexual abuse.
Earlier this month, the UK Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee slammed the CoP’s “opaque” agreements with regimes such as Bahrain, saying they “threaten the integrity of the very brand of British policing that the college is trying to promote.”