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Britain doubles cash for Gulf bodies linked to human rights abuses

Britain has quietly doubled the millions in taxpayers’ money being given on security bodies linked to human rights abuses in the Gulf, figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act have revealed.

In the past year, Britain has more than doubled controversial funding through the secretive Gulf Strategy Fund to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, with Saudi Arabia receiving £1,859,576 and Bahrain receiving £1,800,000.

The current summary lists programmes such as “capacity building of oversight bodies” and “police reform” in the case of Bahrain along with “security and justice” 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. Read the full story in The Times.