Improving trust: Northern Ireland police training Lebanese security forces

Improving trust: Northern Ireland police training Lebanese security forces
2 min read
09 February, 2017
A delegation of Northern Irish police officers is helping train their Lebanese counterparts in policing techniques to help improve their relationship with the community.
Northern Ireland's Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris (L) and Chief Constable Matt Baggott (R)[AFP
The Northern Irish police (PSNI) is helping train the Lebanese internal security forces (ISF) in improving its treatment of detainees and responses to complaints.

Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Bridges, who has over 30 years experience in fighting the Northern Irish militant organisation, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), led the police delegation to Beirut on Tuesday to share their extensive experience in community policing.

"I promise that we will do everything we can… to identify the weaknesses we have… in order to provide the best service for our society," said Ibrahim Basbous, director general of the ISF.

The visit is part of a three-year British Policing Support Programme, costing $16 million, which aims to improve the public's trust in the ISF.

The training exercise will focus on improving efficiency and transparency in the Lebanese police force, drawing on the PSNI's experience in sectarian reconciliation.

Northern Ireland has a long history of sectarian violence, with deep-seated antipathies between the Protestant and Catholic Christian communities.

To counter this sectarianism, the Northern Irish police adopted a community-centred and outwardly transparent approach to policing, which in turn encouraged greater trust.

By comparison, the Lebanese ISF and other security forces have faced criticism from independent human rights groups over reports of torture and arbitrary arrests of detainees.

A report from the international security advisory firm, ISSAT, described the ISF as "often perceived as corrupt, biased or inefficient in their role of protecting local communities."

The delegation leader, Bridges, has himself been at the front-line of this effort to introduce greater public trust in the police.

Bridges personally arrested the leader of Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein party, Gerry Adams, for the alleged 1972 murder of Jean McConville, a 37-year-old mother of 10 children who was abducted and shot by the IRA.

Adams has never been formally connected to the IRA and he was later released without charge.

There is a longstanding history of connection between the IRA, which many consider a terrorist group, and the Middle East.

The IRA received support from a number of Middle Eastern sources during its armed operations.

It was supported by many among the Irish-American community, as well the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which helped by sharing training techniques, weapons and funding. 

In the 1980s, Libya's late leader, Muammar Gaddafi, supplied the IRA with its most devastating weaponry

IRA leaders have also reportedly met with Hizballah members in the past and sent messages of solidarity to the movement in the past.