UK accused of ‘harmful whitewash’ over Bahrain human rights abuses | International growth

Foreign secretary James Cleverly

The British international secretary, James Cleverly, has been urged by humanitarian organisations to difficulty a correction over a “deceptive” International Workplace (FCDO) report on Bahrain, as they are saying it represents a “harmful whitewash” on human rights that dangers emboldening abusers within the Gulf state.

A letter to the foreign secretary, signed by Human Rights Watch (HRW), Reprieve and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Fowl), mentioned the report is “fraught with inaccuracies” and quantities to disinformation that may very well be used as propaganda by the federal government of Bahrain.

New figures, launched by way of freedom of data requests, present the UK authorities has channelled about £13m to Bahrain over the previous decade although the Gulf Strategy Fund (GSF). The signatories additionally expressed concern over Britain giving cash to our bodies concerned in human rights violations by way of the fund, which has been repeatedly criticised by MPs for a scarcity of transparency.

Foreign secretary James Cleverly
International secretary James Cleverly attends a cupboard assembly at Downing Avenue, January 2023. {Photograph}: Neil Corridor/EPA

The findings on Bahrain within the FCDO’s latest Human Rights and Democracy report 2021, which summarises the human rights local weather the world over, are in stark distinction to these of human rights teams. It states: “Bahrain took constructive steps in 2021.” HRW’s report for a similar interval discovered “persevering with heavy repression”.

“The findings of human rights organisations straight contradict your report’s evaluation of human rights in Bahrain,” the teams’ letter advised Cleverly.

Jeed Basyouni, who runs Reprieve’s Center East and north Africa group, mentioned: “For all of the lip service paid within the FCDO’s report back to supposed human rights advances in Bahrain, that is nonetheless a spot the place torture by the safety companies is endemic and protesting towards the regime can get you sentenced to demise.

“Thousands and thousands of kilos of UK taxpayer cash has been spent supporting establishments that whitewash these abuses. Worse, in indulging and repeating the lie that Bahrain is engaged in significant human rights reform, ministers are offering diplomatic cowl for continued repression.”

The teams known as on the international secretary to freeze all help till impartial worldwide specialists can confirm the our bodies being funded are not committing abuses.

The FCDO’s report fails to sentence violations towards demise row inmates, and provides unqualified reward for various sentencing, though its use has been discriminatory and isn’t for political prisoners, the letter mentioned.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of Fowl, mentioned that by failing to say deaths in custody of three detainees in 2021, or the torture of political prisoners, the International Workplace has misled the general public.

“If the International Workplace don’t right this report, regardless of credible proof it’s deceptive, the Bahrain regime will use it as an indication of its reform, with UK backing,” mentioned Alwadaei.

“This simply provides salt to the injuries of those that have misplaced their beloved or who’ve died in jail. That is occurring whereas the UK authorities continues to fund establishments that are implicated in torture and human rights abuses.”

An anti-government demonstration in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, February 2011.
An anti-government demonstration in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, February 2011. {Photograph}: Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Pictures

Final October, HRW and Bird published a joint report claiming Bahrain safety companies supported by the UK have been accused of “critical and protracted” human rights abuses. It mentioned folks had been tortured at Bahrain’s inside ministry and that two different our bodies receiving UK backing, the inside ministry’s particular investigations unit and ombudsman, each didn’t correctly examine the allegations, as they’re obliged to do. On the time, the Bahrain embassy in London mentioned the nation had a “zero tolerance coverage in direction of mistreatment of any sort” and had put in place human rights safeguards and checks and balances.

The FCDO’s newest report praises Bahrain for its restorative justice regulation for kids as a “progressive step” with out mentioning failures to guard key rights, the letter mentioned. The brand new regulation elevated the age of legal accountability to fifteen, however doesn’t prohibit interrogating kids and not using a dad or mum or lawyer current and permits kids to be detained for collaborating in unlicensed public gatherings.

Subsequent week marks the twelfth anniversary of the Bahrain pro-democracy rebellion. An early day motion, signed by 11 MPs, together with Conservative Sir Peter Bottomley, decries Bahrain’s human rights document, expresses grave concern over detention and mistreatment of political prisoners and reiterates requires the suspension of UK assist and the GSF.

The FCDO has been approached for remark.