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UK criticized for supporting Bahraini bodies linked to human rights abusers

The Times attacked the authorities in the United Kingdom for doubling money being given to security bodies linked to human rights abuses in Bahrain.

The newspaper said in a report that the figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act revealed that Britain had quietly doubled millions of taxpayers’ money given to security bodies linked to human rights violations in the Gulf.

According to the report, in the past year, Britain more than doubled its controversial funding through the secret Gulf Strategic Fund to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, with the Kingdom receiving 1,859,576 pounds and Bahrain 1,800,000 pounds.

The new figures appear in the Gulf Strategy Fund program summary, which is only the second to be published after parliamentary pressure due to a lack of transparency.

The current summary lists programs such as Capacity Building for Oversight Bodies and Police Reform in the case of Bahrain, along with the Security and Justice program with Saudi Arabia.

After a Freedom of Information request, however, the Foreign Office revealed that the fund’s Bahraini beneficiaries were the Ministry of Interior and its ombudsman, the Special Investigations Unit, the Prisoner and Detainees Rights Commission and the National Intelligence Agency Ombudsman.

The Ministry of Interior ombudsman, set up to investigate allegations of torture, was subsequently accused of covering up forced confessions leading to executions that the UN declared extrajudicial killings.

GSF beneficiaries in Saudi Arabia, including its Royal Air Force, have been implicated in war crimes in Yemen, while the British-funded Joint Incident Assessment Team has failed to carry out investigations to international standards.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, advocacy director at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, called the doubling of funds an outrageous misuse of public money, especially in light of what is publicly known.

“This significant funding increase to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is beyond outrageous,” he said. “This comes despite the government’s knowledge that bodies found to use torture, such as Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior, have benefitted from this scheme.”

Human rights groups have noted a sharp deterioration in human rights in both countries during the operation of the fund. After it began as the Integrated Activity Fund in 2017, Bahrain ended its death penalty moratorium and executions soared. Saudi Arabia executed 81 individuals on one day this year alone, a single day record.

“The UK government is propping up brutal Gulf dictatorships by rewarding some of the most repressive regimes on earth, notorious for their systematic use of torture and the death penalty to crush their own citizens,” Alwadaei said.

Bird has previously revealed the role of Bahrain’s interior ministry in the detention and torture of one of the country’s highest profile prisoners of conscience, Abduljalil al-Singace.

An academic and human rights defender, Al-Singace has been on solid food strike for over 410 days after the handwritten manuscript of a book he was writing on Bahrain culture and dialect was confiscated. He is serving a life sentence for his role in Bahrain’s 2011 pro-democracy protests.

“It’s up to MPs to demand a public inquiry investigating the torture implications of this fund,” Alwadaei said. “Human rights defenders like Dr Abduljalil al-Singace, who were tortured by Bahraini authorities and remain arbitrarily imprisoned after over a decade, are paying the price for these irresponsible and pernicious policies.”

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