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crackdown concerns Human rights concerns after it emerges PSNI officers trained police in Oman

Gulf states such as Oman are notorious for ruthlessly crushing protests

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A sit-in protest in Oman earlier this year

A sit-in protest in Oman earlier this year

A sit-in protest in Oman earlier this year

The PSNI is facing calls to suspend its overseas training programs after it emerged PSNI officers trained police in Oman, just months before authorities there launched a heavy-handed crackdown on protesters.

Protests have popped up in Oman in response to alleged corruption, some of the largest ever seen in the country, which is governed by absolute ruler Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq.

After an investigation by The Detail, it emerged that the PSNI provided "public order" training to the authoritarian country between December 2020 and February 2021.

During that time eight days of public order and public safety training were delivered by the PSNI to the Royal Oman Police.

One political activist who runs the Omani Centre for Human Rights, Nabhan al-Hanashi, said that Omani police were known to react to protests in the "extreme".

He said: "In Oman, if you campaign for political reforms it is a crime, if you want to call for a change in the regime, it's a crime. These things are not easy to practice inside Oman."

Patrick Corrigan, of Amnesty International Northern Ireland, reacting to the PSNI's confirmation that they had advised the police in Oman, said: "According to the PSNI, these training programs were supposed to help ensure human rights compliant public order policing in Oman, yet the Omani authorities are continuing to unduly restrict free expression, arresting and prosecuting journalists and online activists."

He added that he was concerned about the Chief Constable and the Policing Board's approval for the PSNI to deliver training to countries such as Oman which have a track record of "suppressing freedom of assembly and expression".

He said: "The PSNI should carry out a follow-up evaluation to ensure that any training offered results in an improvement in human rights and policing in that country, especially as there are considerable ongoing human rights concerns about policing in Oman."

PSNI training has also been offered to other countries which have raised concerns around the globe in terms of the way they deal with public protests, especially against the government, including Bahrain, Libya and Qatar.

The PSNI's work in Oman can be traced back as far as 2015, when two officers from the PSNI's training college visited the country.

Between 2014 and 2017, the PSNI received £900,000 to fund its work in Oman. Omani police have also visited Northern Ireland as part of the agreement with the Gulf state.

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A PSNI spokesperson said: "Our work in Oman is human rights-centred and is delivered in a way to ensure an understanding of the rules and responsibilities of all involved. Our focus is always on the delivery of the highest standards of policing strategy and tactics."

Dolores Kelly of the SDLP, who sits on the Policing Board, also raised concerns over the PSNI's involvement with Oman's police service, said she has asked the PSNI for an update on the training they have provided to Omani police, and described the state’s clampdown on protestors as “entirely disproportionate”.

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