Northern Ireland news

NI-CO criticised over Police Ombudsman meetings with Bahraini investigators

Maya Foa is a director of London-based Reprieve
Connla Young

A human rights group has voiced concern after a company owned by Invest NI facilitated meetings between the Police Ombudsman and investigators from Bahrain.

Reprieve hit out after it emerged that officers from the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in the Persian Gulf nation met with officials from Michael Maguire’s office in a meeting set up by NI-CO (Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas).

The SIU investigates complaints against Bahraini police, which Reprieve says has a poor human rights record.

NI-CO is wholly owned by Invest NI and carries out work with the Bahraini security forces.

Reprieve said it has obtained correspondence through freedom of information legislation which shows that officials from Bahrain wanted to be briefed on a particular ombudsman case where a PSNI officer had been vindicated.

They also wanted to discuss how the ombudsman uses CCTV footage and other evidence during investigations, how family liaison officers maintain the confidence of relatives of people killed by officers, and issues including handling the media.

A meeting took place in Belfast earlier this year.

Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve, criticised NI-CO’s role in setting up the meetings.

Given allegations of human rights abuses in the country, she said “Stormont needs to urgently suspend NI-CO’s work in Bahrain”.

A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman said officials regularly meet officials from abroad.

A spokeswoman for NI-CO said it has been “working on behalf of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Bahrain since 2013”.

Meanwhile, People Before Profit assembly members Eamonn McCann and Gerry Carroll are to hold a picket outside Invest NI offices tomorrow in protest at NI-CO's dealings with countries "implicated in torture".

Invest NI declined to comment.

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