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  • UK to press Maldives government over human rights abuses

    Move comes as MPs and MSPs table questions to ministers after Guardian revealed ties between British and Maldives police

    The Maldives police service is accused of serious and persistent abuses. Photograph: Ibrahim Faid/AFP/Getty Images

    Foreign Office ministers are to raise serious concerns about human rights abuses in the Maldives after a Guardian investigation revealed close ties between the British and Maldives police.

    Alistair Burt is to pressure the Maldives government to tackle serious and persistent abuses by its police service, including attacks on opposition MPs, torture and mass detentions of democracy activists, on an official visit next month.

    MPs and MSPs are tabling questions to the foreign secretary, William Hague, and ministers in the Scottish government about disclosures in the Guardian that at least 77 police officers in the Maldives, including the current commissioner, Abdulla Riyaz, were trained by the Scottish Police College.

    The college did not train Maldives officers in public order policing, but did include courses on human rights. Sources in the Maldives said a number of officers directly implicated in the recent violence were trained at the college, at Tulliallan in Fife.

    Tory and Labour MPs at Westminster and MSPs active in a cross-party human rights group at Holyrood said the Foreign Office and Scottish ministers should immediately review those contracts.

    The Guardian can also disclose that the Scottish Police college could soon extend its role in the Maldives by helping run degree courses for a new policing academy, despite the growing international condemnation of Maldives police conduct over the last 10 months.

    The college and the Foreign Office are considering a formal proposal to supply teaching to the new academy. The Maldives president, Mohammed Waheed Hassan, who took power in February after the police helped to force the first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, from office, has used that deal to defend his regime’s track record on human rights.

    In October Waheed wrote directly to senior public figures, including the airlines owner Sir Richard Branson and musician Thom Yorke, who had signed an open letter to the Guardian condemning his regime’s conduct, claiming that Scottish police were helping to reform policing in the Maldives.

    John Glen MP, the parliamentary private secretary to the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, and a supporter of the opposition Maldives Democratic party, said he would be raising “grave concerns” that Waheed was using the Scottish Police college’s involvement to manipulate international opinion, in the Commons and directly with Burt.

    Glen said: “There are grave implications for the Scottish Police college, which is in danger of being taken for a ride by a regime which is blatantly trying to legitimise the quality of its police force on the back of the established reputation of Scottish policing.”

    John Finnie MSP, who chairs the Scottish parliament’s cross-party human rights group and is a former police officer, said he had written to Hague asking him to reconsider the training deal until democracy and civil liberties had been restored in the Maldives.

    Finnie has also tabled questions to Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish justice secretary, asking whether he had any powers to stop the college training police in oppressive regimes, and would be raising the Guardian’s investigation with Stephen House, chief constable of the new single police force for Scotland.

    Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent
    guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 19 December 2012 07.00 GMT

    Find this story at 19 December 2012

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