PSNI facing calls to quit Israeli-linked security projects

Work involves Ministry of Public Security which is responsible for police and prisons

The PSNI is also involved in two projects, called Crest and Connexions, with a private company called Motorola Solutions Israel. File photograph: PA

The PSNI is also involved in two projects, called Crest and Connexions, with a private company called Motorola Solutions Israel. File photograph: PA

 

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has been urged to suspend its work on four security-research projects involving the Israeli ministry responsible for police and prisons and a company linked to Israeli settlements.

The projects involve the Israeli Ministry of Public Security, which is responsible for police and prisons, and a company providing surveillance to Israeli settlements, investigative website The Detail has established.

The initiatives are being funded by the European Union under the €1.7 billion security stream of Horizon 2020, an €80 billion investment programme.

The PSNI previously worked on at least three other projects with organisations either linked to the Israeli police or military or which have been accused of selling surveillance technology to oppressive governments.

Israel’s police and prison services have long been accused of human rights violations against Palestinians, while settlements are recognised as illegal under international law by Ireland, the EU and the United Kingdom.

Last month, international non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch said in a report that the actions of Israeli authorities against Palestinians are so severe they amount to “apartheid”. Israeli police and prisons were strongly criticised in the report, which the Israeli government rejected as “propaganda”.

Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland director, Patrick Corrigan, said: “As a matter of urgency, the PSNI should suspend all programmes with the Israeli police and security services where there’s a clear risk of involvement in human rights violations.

“This needs to come as part of a wider halt to all military and police exports from the UK to Israel, including any training and technology which could lead to further human rights violations.

“Northern Ireland, and particularly our police service, must ensure it is not implicated in Israel’s human rights violations. The distressing scenes from east Jerusalem and Gaza should now be a wake-up call.”

PSNI response

In response, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said that Horizon 2020 funds “groundbreaking research” in the EU and globally. “While technological advances are critical to ensuring continued public safety and confidence, so too is ensuring that all research complies with ethical standards.

“As well as ethics, consideration is also given to the projects’ legal and societal impacts. Any allegations of unethical or illegal actions relating to participation in a Horizon 2020 project should be reported to the European Commission. ”

One of the PSNI’s ongoing projects with Israel’s Ministry of Public Security is known as Roxanne. It aims to develop surveillance technology that identifies people involved in organised crime and terrorism – through analysis of private telephone calls, texts, speech patterns and video.

An Garda Síochána and several other European police forces are partners in the Roxanne project. Following earlier press coverage of the project, several TDs and MEPs criticised the partnership, calling for withdrawal of the Garda.

The PSNI is also working on a separate security research project with the Israeli ministry called the ILEAnet project, which aims to “set up and develop a sustainable network of law enforcement agency practitioner organisations from all over Europe”.

In addition, the PSNI is involved in two projects, called Crest and Connexions, with a private company called Motorola Solutions Israel which is a subsidiary of telecoms giant Motorola. Both aim to create predictive policing tools for law enforcement, ranging from monitoring online content or relying on data from social media and the dark web.

Last year, a United Nations report noted Motorola among 112 businesses linked to Israeli settlements. It said the telco, and its subsidiary Motorola Solutions Israel, are supplying “surveillance and identification equipment for settlements, the wall and checkpoints directly linked with settlements”.

Palestinian reaction

A leading Palestinian advocacy group in Ireland described the PSNI’s involvement in projects connected to Israeli security agencies as “deeply shocking” and said it should withdraw.

“It’s frankly hypocritical that an institution that purports to defend law and order, and to uphold human rights, can then collaborate with entities such as the Israeli Ministry of Public Security . . . or Motorola Solutions – all vital cogs in the maintenance of Israel’s apartheid regime,” said Fatin Al Tamimi, chairwoman of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Ms Al Tamimi also criticised the EU for its willingness to “jettison its commitments to human rights and international law” for facilitating this form of Israeli involvement in Horizon 2020.

Israel’s Ministry of Public Security received more than €2.26 million for 18 different projects from 2011 to 2022, according to Open Security Data Europe.

In a statement, the European Commission said it condemns “all forms of human rights violations . . . as reflected at EU level in the Charter of Fundamental Rights”.

Research and innovation activities funded through Horizon must comply with strict ethical principles and relevant national, European Union and international legislation, it said.

The UK’s Israeli embassy was approached for comment.

The Israeli embassy in Ireland previously said there was a “tremendous amount of ongoing co-operation” between Israel and the EU, based on “shared values and a common world view”, and that “the Israel national police uphold the rule of law and adhere to the highest of standards in maintaining fundamental rights . . . while facing complex challenges from terrorism and criminality.”