Senior UK government figures including Foreign Secretary William Hague are to be quizzed by politicians over the role of a Scottish police college in training Maldivian officers accused of perpetrating human rights abuses in the country.
Following an investigation carried out by UK-based newspaper The Guardian, politicians at Westminster and the Scottish Parliament of Holyrood are to press government ministers on the Scottish Police College’s role in training Maldivian officers.
The Guardian has reported that the MPS stands accused of using “torture and sexual assault against detainees and acting against democracy activists and journalists” after the controversial transfer of power that occurred on February 7 this year.
Police authorities in the Maldives have played down the abuse allegations raised by a number of NGOs such as Amnesty International, questioning possible bias in the data gathered in their reports. The MPS has also said that the allegations of abuse did not reflect the international scope of training provided to officers in the country.
The UK-based newspaper’s investigation reported that at least 77 senior Maldives police officers and commanders – including the Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz – had been trained by the Scottish Police College, located in Fife.
Amnesty International, former senior Maldives officials and opposition activists said they had deep concerns about the UK’s links with the MPS after officers were accused of breaching human rights, the Guardian reported.
The Scottish Police College, which is reportedly earning significant sums of money through working with MPS officers, has an ongoing contract to train Maldives police officers on a diploma course for junior ranks and middle and senior rank officers.
Speaking to the Guardian, the MPS said that it took its obligations seriously, and that reforms recommended by British advisers, as well as consultants from Canada and Australia, were being implemented by the MPS.
MPS spokesman Superintendent Abdul Mannan told the Guardian: “On one hand calling for MPS to be more efficient in dealing with officers’ misconduct and violation of human rights, and on the other calling to suspend all the assistance MPS receives to achieve this, contradicts their [critics] known intention and their actions.”
Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.
Police Spokesman Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today that there was no link between the training local police officers received in Scotland and the allegations of abuses carried out by some of its officers.
“Our training is in accordance to regulation supplied from other countries all over the world, including the UK, Canada and Australia,” said Haneef.
The UK Foreign Office has meanwhile defended the UK’s record in the Maldives, but spoke of concern over the surge in violence since the ousting of Nasheed in February.
“We have serious concerns about allegations of police brutality in Maldives, especially in February 2012,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman told the Guardian.
“We have privately and publicly urged the Maldivian government to fully investigate all allegations and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. We have also called on all parties to ensure institutional reforms are put in place to consolidate democracy and further protect human rights in Maldives.
Farah Faizal, the former Maldives high commissioner to the UK, told the Guardian that close links between British police and the MPS had to be urgently reviewed.
“What I can categorically say is that [the training] doesn’t appear to be working,” she told the paper. “If you see the brutality which is going on in Maldives and the impunity with what’s happening, if these people are being trained by the Scottish police, it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money. It’s unacceptable.”
In November a three-man delegation from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) expressed concern over the failure to punish the police officers who used “excessive force” against MPs earlier this year.
Philippine Senator Francis Pangilinan from IPU’s Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians, speaking to members of the press, revealed: “The delegation is deeply concerned that the police officers who used excessive force against the members of parliament earlier this year have not yet been punished, and that Members of Parliament appear to remain subject to intimidation.
“The delegation points out that in several of the cases in the use of excessive police force, there is clear video evidence available which should have enabled the authorities to take effective and swift action. The delegation therefore calls on authorities to do everything possible to expedite their efforts to a successful conclusion,” Pangilinan said.
A Spokesperson from Scottish Police College at Fife told Minivan News that it would not be reviewing its training procedures, but would be taking guidance from the High Commission on whether its existing agreement with the MPS would continue.
“We are continuing conversations with the High Commission on the matter,” the spokesperson said.