Britain spending millions to train Palestinian security forces despite rights concerns

Special to

LONDON — Britain, despite allegations of torture, has been playing a
major role in training and financing Palestinian security forces in the West

Officials acknowledged that the government of British Prime Minister
David Cameron was pumping tens of millions of euros to maintain PA
intelligence and security agencies.

Palestinian Authority police stand guard in the West Bank town of Qalqilya.  /Reuters
Palestinian Authority police stand guard in the West Bank town of Qalqilya. /Reuters

The officials said Britain has been training and advising virtually every major PA security force, often in coordination with the United States.

Officials said Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence agency has repeatedly urged PA security commanders to stop torture. But they acknowledged that torture and abuse continued in PA detention facilities against Hamas suspects and pro-democracy activists.

The International Development Department said the government would spend 2.2 million pounds [$3.4 million] to increase oversight of PA security forces. A statement by the department said Britain was also seeking to develop a Palestinian judiciary in the West Bank.

“Through DFID’s Supporting Stability and Promoting Democracy Program we will endeavor to help the Palestinian Authority to become more open and
accountable,” International Development Minister Alan Duncan said.

In an address on April 10 in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Duncan said
the aid was meant to help the PA establish a Palestinian state. He said the
PA has “proved its capability to deliver services and security.”

Officials said MI6 was helping PA intelligence and security agencies. They said MI6, with an office in
Jerusalem, was overseeing the training of mid-level and senior officers from
the General Intelligence Service and the Preventive Security Apparatus.

The British Daily Mail said London’s aid to the PA security forces comes
amid renewed testimony of widespread torture. On March 30, the Mail quoted
a former PA security official who outlined the tools of torture used by
investigators against Palestinians.

“If you are not sure of the case, I assure you, torture is not going to
be used,” the former official, who did not want to be identified, said. “But
if you feel you’re not getting what you want — well, then the decision will
depend on the investigator’s patience and the importance of the information
he needs.”

“Our funding is channelled through a World Bank Trust Fund and is linked
to a program of government reforms,” Duncan, who did not discuss the torture
issue, said. “This on-going commitment allows the PA to maintain autonomy over its finances which is a sign of our continuing trust in the Palestinian Authority.”

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