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Northern Ireland trained Oman police ahead of protest crackdown

Gardai police officers man a checkpoint on the border in Northern Ireland on 9 April 2020 [Charles McQuillan/Getty Images]
Gardai police officers man a checkpoint on the border in Northern Ireland on 9 April 2020 [Charles McQuillan/Getty Images]

Northern Irish police have been implicated in Oman's suppression of rare protests last month. The demonstrations erupted over rising unemployment and corruption and are said to be the largest of their kind in the sultanate since the 2011 Arab Spring.

It has now been revealed that four Northern Irish police officers provided virtual public order training to the Royal Oman police forces some months before the protests, between December of last year and February of this year.

According to the investigative news sites, The Detail and Declassified UK, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has been training Omani police on "how to deal with protestors" since 2015, having established ties with the force the year prior.

One exiled political activist who runs the Omani Centre for Human Rights, Nabhan Al-Hanashi, is quoted as having described the police response to the demonstrations as being "very extreme", particularly if they call for regime change in the country.

Al-Hanashi added that if the PSNI "supports human rights, it shouldn't be supporting Oman's police who are oppressing people". As it is a criminal offence to insult the Sultan in Oman, Al-Hanashi explained: "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."

He also added that the British Government has "always protected the regime in Oman" and that "for some reason in the UK, nobody is hearing us."

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The Director of Amnesty International in Northern Ireland, Patrick Corrigan, has expressed concern over the reports, saying they raise "important questions" regarding the PSNI's role in Oman. He told both websites: "According to the PSNI, these training programmes 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."

Following the protests, the Omani military started a recruitment drive while Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq ordered the Ministry of Defence and other government institutions to create 32,000 jobs for Omanis during 2021 in an attempt to quell future uprisings. "The Ministry of Defence will… begin to receive job seekers", the official ONA news agency announced late last month.

Earlier this month it was reported that dozens of jailed protestors have since been released, although according to human rights activists at the time, a handful remain detained but are also expected to be freed.

READ: Outgoing UN Yemen envoy hopes Oman peace efforts 'bear fruit'

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