Qatar torture regime pays £60,000 for PSNI to train officers
Questions raised over 31 staff sent to Gulf
The Gulf state of Qatar - which has been heavily criticised for human rights abuses - is paying the PSNI to train its officers, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Almost £60,000 was paid to the PSNI by the Qatar Government for an initial training course for a small group of officers in the country in October. The nation is getting its officers ready to host the World Cup in 2022.
It also hosted Chief Constable George Hamilton in a no-expense-spared visit to the country as a VIP guest in October to "foster relationships" with the Qatar Ministry of Interior.
Mr Hamilton was flown business class to the oil-rich country and put up in the luxury five-star St Regis Hotel in Doha for two nights.
A lavish dinner was also organised for him to mark his visit, and he received gifts of three "statuettes".
The PSNI said that the organisation "along with other policing services in the UK, have been asked by the Ministry of Interior in Qatar to consider providing advice, guidance and training to the Qatari Police Service in a number of areas".
It added: "The Patten Report for Policing, which remains the blueprint for delivery of policing in Northern Ireland, is clear that PSNI must consider the provision of more training for overseas police services in recognised areas of excellence.
"The request from Qatar to provide these services was considered by the PSNI based on our experience and in recognition of our human rights-based policing approach. Having agreed to a pilot programme, approval was sought and received from the Northern Ireland Policing Board and Department of Justice."
Information obtained by the Belfast Telegraph under the Freedom of Information Act shows that from April to December last year the PSNI earned £59,248, excluding VAT, from the Qataris.
The PSNI said this payment covered the delivery of silver command (public order) training in Doha in October 2015.
According to the information, 31 police officers and staff officers were involved in the provision of the service. Qatar also sent three officers to Northern Ireland to learn more about policing practice here.
Amnesty International has raised concern over the PSNI's relationship with the Gulf state, where flogging and torture are used as punishments.
In addition, the Swiss authorities and the FBI are investigating wide-ranging allegations of bribery and corruption within football's world-governing body Fifa, and claims surrounding the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
Although Qatar is not a human rights country of concern for the Foreign Office, the country has been accused by human rights groups of "rampant exploitation" of migrant workers.
Around 1,000 workers have died in the construction of World Cup infrastructure.
"We have concerns about PSNI training of police in countries which have poor human rights records," said Amnesty International Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan.
"In recent years Qatari police have detained a number of journalists and human rights researchers investigating the abuse of migrant workers involved in preparing infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup," he said.
In light of the country's "poor human rights record" Mr Corrigan warned that the Chief Constable and the Northern Ireland Policing Board "must look closely at policing in any country where there is a request to deliver police training".
Policing Board member Jonathan Craig admitted there had been a "robust debate" when the PSNI first raised the issue about assistance to Qatar. "The argument is that these are officers with human rights experience and extensive public order experience going out to share that experience with another force. I don't think anyone would like to see another Hillsborough. The experts in crowd control and public order are the PSNI," the DUP MLA said. However, Mr Craig added he was concerned to hear that 31 police officers and staff had been involved in the initial training.
"The board were informed that one or two officers would travel to Qatar to give advice on crowd control and human rights issues in advance of the influx of visitors for the World Cup. This is what the Policing Board agreed to, and questions will be asked about how the eventual trip matches the information members were given."
SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said concerns about the country's human rights record had been raised at the board, but added that the purpose of the training support was to "look at how we can transform and change policing in Qatar".
The Chief Constable recently told the Policing Board that the extent of further training that the PSNI can provide is still being explored. He said it could have the potential to generate income for the PSNI. The police boss said there would not be any detriment to training and service delivery in Northern Ireland. In the past the PSNI has refused requests by other countries for assistance on the basis of their human rights record.