ASI refutes the BBC’s spurious allegations and will pursue every legal avenue to defend the reputation of the project.
Since 2014, the Access to Justice and Community Security (AJACS) project has worked to bring basic policing services to communities devastated by Syria’s civil war and where there is no legitimate or functioning public authority.
This community-led policing aims to keep residents safer and more resilient in the face of terrorist threats. It began as the initiative of General Shallaf, who defected from the Syrian state police when he refused to follow orders to shoot civilians. He created the Free Syrian Police as a trained civilian police service with no weapons. In a recent survey, 80% of Syrians named the FSP as their most trusted provider of security, and upwards of 90% of those surveyed knew and valued AJACS services in local communities.
ASI, along with a partner company, implements the AJACS project on behalf of the international community, including the Canadian, Danish, Dutch, German, UK and US governments. These donors understand the high risk – and great benefit – of community policing in terrorist-controlled areas, and donors exercise an extraordinarily high degree of scrutiny and supervision over all the activities of the implementing companies.
BBC Panorama has sought to portray the project as a vehicle for paying violent extremists, allegedly due to a lack of oversight by the implementing companies and, by implication, the UK Government and other donors. This portrayal is wrong.
Recognising that AJACS operates in a chaotic and lawless environment without any banking services, there is significant oversight on all aspects of its activities, including multiple layers of verification, and bi-weekly meetings of the two managing companies with the six donors. It is also subject to independent third-party monitoring. There is extensive vetting to prevent extremists from infiltrating police ranks. This level of supervision and scrutiny by donors is well beyond the norm for aid projects and donor concurrence is required in advance of any action – from payment of stipends to conducting training.
Panorama cites only one example where six people with alleged links to extremist networks were supposedly employed at one police station. Upon discovering these links, the individuals were immediately removed. That is six, in a force of 3,400 police officers.
Panorama alleges diversion of funds – providing evidence of funds totalling less than $2,000 in a $20 million project. And, in fact, no UK taxpayers’ money was lost.
All of Panorama’s allegations are untrue or entirely misleading.
“We are incredibly proud of the acumen and dedication of the AJACS team, delivering practical help and hope to people in one of the most difficult environments in the world,” said ASI interim CEO Jonathan Pell.
“There are high risks working in a fragile state in civil war. We mitigate those risks under the close control of the donors, and support AJACS because of its success in ending human rights abuses and establishing the rule of law in Syrian society.
ASI will continue to vigorously refute the BBC’s claims and defend the integrity of one of its most important projects.”
For all media requests please contact:
Communications Adviser – Adam Smith International
Tel: +44 207 735 6660
Adam Smith International
ASI works closely with governments, civil society organisations, and the private sector to bring lasting prosperity to people in developing countries, through policies and programmes that underpin economic growth and governance reform. ASI has undergone fundamental restructuring since the founding directors left the board in early 2017. The company has transformed into an employee-owned company with a new code of conduct and enhanced governance and controls. ASI is committed to a triple bottom line, accountable for economic, environmental and social performance. It is creating a foundation that will use a portion of company revenues to support innovative development work.