The Guardian Says Bahrain Fails in Reform Commitments, Case of Mohammad Ramadan is Example
2016-07-24 - 10:41 p
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The Guardian Newspaper said that "a Foreign Office-backed initiative to monitor human rights abuses in Bahrain has been accused of failing to investigate allegations that opponents of the country's government are being tortured into making confessions," indicating that "human rights groups say the watchdog is failing to investigate serious claims of mistreatment and torture, including that of Mohammed Ramadan, an opponent of the government who was sentenced to death for taking part in a bombing that killed a policeman."
The newspaper stated that "One key measure (to support human rights) was the appointment of an ombudsman to investigate claims of human rights abuses (a watchdog that human rights groups claimed that it failed)."
In April, the Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood told parliament that the ombudsman, whose position is funded by the UK taxpayer, had confirmed to his officials that "there have been no allegations of mistreatment or torture" in relation to Ramadan's case. But the Observer has seen evidence that in 2014 the ombudsman was sent a lengthy statement from the civil rights organisation "Americans for Democracy and Human Rights (ADHR) in Bahrain", which alleged that Ramadan, a father of three who before his arrest regularly attended protests against the government, had been tortured.
The ADHR said in an email: "The officers took Mohammed to another room and began torturing him. They beat, slapped and kicked him all over his body, focusing on his head and ears. They called him a traitor and accused him of killing an officer. When Mohammed denied these accusations, they beat him more violently. This torture continued for four days."
It continued: "Mohammed finally agreed to confess because he wanted the torture to end. He said that he would sign or confess to anything but the officers refused to tell him what to say."
Earlier this month Ellwood told parliament that an investigation into the torture allegations had now been launched.
The announcement came after the ombudsman explained that the torture allegations had been overlooked because they had been made in an email rather than through an official complaint form. "The ombudsman, Nawaf Mohammed al-Ma'awda, has issued a statement that addresses the full range of allegations and commits to undertake a full, independent investigation into the treatment of Mr Mohammed Ramadan," Ellwood said.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: "We have raised continuing concerns about Mohammed Ramadan with the government of Bahrain. We welcome the ombudsman's commitment to a full, independent investigation into Mohammed Ramadan's treatment."
"The British government consistently and unreservedly condemns torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and it is a priority for us to combat it wherever and whenever it occurs," he added.
"The Foreign Office has been funding an incompetent ombudsman in Bahrain that has been caught red-handed lying to them about the existence of a torture complaint concerning Mohammed Ramadan," said Sayed Alwadaei of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. "There now remains only one proportionate response to such deception and that is to sever all taxpayer funding to and support for the ombudsman before it inflicts further harm upon victims of human rights abuse in Bahrain."
The newspaper announced that the claim, made by several human rights groups, is potentially damaging to the kingdom as it seeks to improve its image on the world stage. Bahrain pledged to introduce reforms following reports that its security services carried out torture during the 2011 Arab spring.
"The admission has triggered calls for the government to review its support for Bahrain, which insists that the allegations of torture made by Ramadan and another man on death row are untrue," the Guardian stressed.
The row over the ombudsman's role comes as the UK cultivates closer links with Bahrain which it has identified as a "priority market" for business interests. The British taxpayer has spent £2m in the last year funding projects in Bahrain through its Conflict, Security and Stability fund.
The newspaper highlighted that "Bahrain, meanwhile, is picking up the lion's share of the bill for the construction of a Royal Navy base, the Mina Salman support facility, which will include warehouses, a 300-metre jetty, accommodation, sports pitch and helipad."
Calls to the press office in the Bahrain embassy in London went unanswered.
Amnesty International and the UN also raised concerns.
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