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UK’s 2m support for Egypt security projects branded ‘deeply disturbing’ – The Guardian

The government is facing questions over transparency after almost 2 million in aid and defence funding was given to security projects in Egypt, including support for policing, the criminal justice system and the treatment of juvenile detainees. The news comes with Egypt s security forces under fire1 from human rights groups for routine disappearances, the torture of detainees, and the jailing of political opponents and journalists. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the cash was granted to the Egyptian authorities through the conflict, stability and security fund (CSSF), the operations, objectives and achievement of which were described as opaque by a parliamentary inquiry earlier this year.

MPs and Lords criticised the secrecy2 of the 1.1bn fund, claiming they could neither scrutinise it nor provide taxpayers with information about how it was spent . The avowed aim of the secretive CSSF, which is financed by the aid and defence budgets, is to build security and tackle conflict overseas. Human rights group Reprieve said it was concerned that 650,000 of the 1.85m security funding granted through the CSSF in 2015-16 appeared to involve direct engagement with the Egyptian police and criminal justice system , including programmes relating to juvenile detainees . Reprieve asked for further details from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but the request was refused on the grounds that it was not in the public interest. Maya Foa, Reprieve s director, said the FCO s lack of transparency was deeply disturbing .

Foa said: Ministers are well aware of rights abuses by Egyptian courts and prisons, including against juveniles like Ibrahim Halawa .

It is, therefore, deeply disturbing that the government refuses to release any information about its work with these serial human rights violators.

Transparency in the use of taxpayer money is crucial where there is a risk that the UK could be contributing to abuses as serious as torture and illegal executions . The Foreign Office should urgently explain what these projects involve, and demonstrate they are not exacerbating the terrible ordeals of people like Ibrahim. The case of Halawa, an Irish citizen who has been detained in Egypt for five years awaiting trial, provides a stark reminder of the nature of criminal justice in Egypt under President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Halawa, who faces the death penalty if convicted, was arrested with his three sisters during a protest against the ousting of Mohamed Morsi at a Cairo mosque in 20133 . He was then 17, and a juvenile under international law .

His sisters were released but he was charged, along with 493 others, with attending an illegal protest. Intense diplomatic efforts by the Irish government have failed to secure Halawa s release and his trial has been delayed more than 30 times, partly due to the complications inherent in organising a mass trial involving almost 500 defendants . Last year, he told the Guardian4 he had been stripped, beaten and left for dead after a hunger strike . On 29 June, Halawa s case was postponed again, to 2 October, according to the FCO. In a letter sent to Reprieve in response to its request for further information about the CSSF s support for security initiatives in Egypt, the FCO said that providing further detail about the projects could jeopardise the trust and confidence in us by the Egyptian government and therefore our ability to both protect and promote UK interests in the future .

The revelations expose wider concerns about the rising percentage of Britain s 13bn aid budget being spent by ministries other than the Department for International Development, and the implications of such spending for public scrutiny .

Some 36% of aid is spent through other departments who have direct responsibility for that portion of budget. Kate Osamor, the shadow international development secretary, called for all government departments to publish aid-related data . Osamor said: This alarming case raises yet more urgent questions about how the National Security Council is deploying the CSSF to spend aid money that should be earmarked to help the world s poorest.

The government needs to come clean on how they are spending aid money through other departments, and make sure these other departments quickly get themselves up to DfID s level of aid transparency . In this day and age, every government department should be publishing data for all aid-financed programmes, and not hiding behind the excuse of national security . The NSC should publish their country strategies, open up the CSSF to scrutiny, and tell the public whether or not our aid is being spent on detaining juveniles.

Members of the Egyptian police special forces guard Cairo s Tahrir Square on the fifth anniversary of the Arab spring uprising . Photograph: Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP/Getty Images

In a recent briefing, the FCO reported that the human rights situation in Egypt continues to deteriorate with reports of torture, police brutality and enforced disappearance5. In a statement, a spokesman for the FCO said: The UK is committed to working with Egypt to support political and economic reform, and we encourage the Egyptian government to deliver on its international and domestic human rights commitments . But it is not good enough to merely criticise other countries from the sidelines . We have to work with Egypt to encourage change .

All projects carried out by the UK government comply with the UK s domestic and international human rights obligations.

The statement said the CSSF was working with the International Aid Transparency6 Initiative to ensure they meet standards.

References

  1. ^ Egypt s security forces under fire (www.hrw.org)
  2. ^ criticised the secrecy (www.theguardian.com)
  3. ^ at a Cairo mosque in 2013 (www.theguardian.com)
  4. ^ he told the Guardian (www.theguardian.com)
  5. ^ reports of torture, police brutality and enforced disappearance (www.gov.uk)
  6. ^ Transparency (www.theguardian.com)

Armed police to patrol V Festival 2017 for extra security checks

Armed police officers are set to be on patrol at V Festival1 this weekend for increased security, as organisers says there will be extra checks. Earlier this year, V Festival organisers Festival Republic said that they were looking into ways to increase security2 in the wake of the Manchester terror attack3 looking into extra ways to protect their fans . Now, V Festival say that they have been working with local authorities at the highest level , and that there will be extra bag checks for fans arriving by car and by foot.

Your safety is our priority and we ve put in place all necessary measures to maximise public safety, working closely with local authorities at the highest level, say V organisers . We ask that you also play a part in keeping Virgin V Festival safe and secure, so please take note of our messages4 . Pack accordingly and stay strong together.

They added: All festival goers will be subject to extra searches of their vehicles, bags and their person.

Please be patient if there are longer queues than normal . We request that you co-operate with any security requests and searches . Please pack light and take note of our bag restrictions.

Speaking in the wake of 22 music fans being killed in the Manchester terror attack, V organisers said5: The festival perimeter, arena, backstage and off-site areas are all robustly controlled and managed by security experts . Festivals are what we do . The hundreds of staff working on these events know them inside out and have been working on them for many years.

Your safety is our utmost concern .

Please review our Personal Safety section on the festival websites and if you have any major concerns please don t hesitate to get in touch. This comes after extra provisions and checks were put in place at Glastonbury 20176. V Festival 2017 welcomes the likes of Jay Z, Pink, Ellie Goulding, Jason Derulo, The Wombats, James Arthur, Stormzy, Craig David, Dizzee Rascal and many more. Check out the weather forecast here7.

References

  1. ^ V Festival (www.nme.com)
  2. ^ V Festival organisers Festival Republic said that they were looking into ways to increase security (www.nme.com)
  3. ^ Manchester terror attack (www.nme.com)
  4. ^ please take note of our messages (www.vfestival.com)
  5. ^ Speaking in the wake of 22 music fans being killed in the Manchester terror attack, V organisers said (www.nme.com)
  6. ^ extra provisions and checks were put in place at Glastonbury 2017 (www.nme.com)
  7. ^ Check out the weather forecast here (www.nme.com)

Disqualified director of security firm sentenced to 18 months

Disqualified Director Of Security Firm Sentenced To 18 Months

On 27 July at Kingston Crown Court, Michael Quinton pleaded guilty to acting as a director of Limited Risk Ltd contrary to the Company Director Disqualification Act. We began investigating Quinton and Limited Risk Ltd*, an existing Portsmouth-based security company to which he was linked, in May 2014. Quinton, who appeared to be acting as a director of the company, was listed as a disqualified director at Companies House and did not hold an SIA licence. When the investigation began, Quinton and Limited Risk had a number of contracts to undertake security at venues across London and the South East. After further enquiries it became clear that Quinton also had connections to several security companies that were listed as dissolved at Companies House.

These companies were Defensa Security Limited, Guardit (UK) Limited, Guardit Clubs Limited, Guardit Events Limited and Guardit Security Services. After scrutinising Quinton further, our SIA investigators uncovered a number of potential offences from the Commonwealth Games in Scotland in 2014. These offences related to the supply of security staff to the Commonwealth Games where accommodation for the volunteers never materialised and they ended up paying for it themselves. Our SIA investigators were able to show that Quinton had been acting as a director for Limited Risk, despite having been disqualified. As a result, we referred him to the Insolvency Service and supplied information relating to the investigation.

Hampshire Police also investigated Quinton. The Criminal Enforcement team at the Insolvency Service then prosecuted Quinton. The court gave Quinton an 18 month sentence, suspended for 2 years. He was ordered to pay all the prosecution s costs of 13,818.47 within 6 months, and was disqualified from being a director of a company and/or an insolvency practitioner for 10 years. Kevin Young, SIA Partnerships and Investigations Manager, said:

Our investigation of Quinton s business practices relating to the supply of security staff to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland, and other major sporting events, revealed a pattern of behaviour.

Our investigators at the SIA actively seek to work with partners and the conviction of Michael Quinton shows the value of joint working and sharing of information between the Insolvency Service and Hampshire Police.

The case lawyer, Ian Hatcher, from the Insolvency Service said:

This case shows that the Criminal Enforcement Team of Insolvency Service will take action against those individuals who act as directors or are involved in the management of companies when they are not permitted to do so. Here, a disqualified director attempted to circumvent his ban by incorporating a company abroad and by using the names of others as directors of his British company. The Criminal Enforcement Team of Insolvency Service was alive to this, and took firm action.

Further information:

  • The Security Industry Authority is the organisation responsible for regulating the private security industry in the United Kingdom, reporting to the Home Secretary under the terms of the Private Security Industry Act 2001.

    The SIA’s main duties are: the compulsory licensing of individuals undertaking designated activities; and managing the voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme.

  • For further information about the Security Industry Authority or to sign up for email updates visit www.sia.homeoffice.gov.uk.

    The SIA is also on FacebookDisqualified Director Of Security Firm Sentenced To 18 Months (Security Industry Authority) and TwitterDisqualified Director Of Security Firm Sentenced To 18 Months (SIAuk).