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UK Accused of "Dangerous Whitewash" over Bahrain Human Rights Abuses

2023-02-13 - 6:04 p

Bahrain Mirror: The British foreign secretary, James Cleverly, has been urged by humanitarian organizations to issue a correction over a "misleading" Foreign Office (FCDO) report on Bahrain, as they say it represents a "dangerous whitewash" on human rights that risks emboldening abusers in the Gulf state.

A letter to the foreign secretary, signed by Human Rights Watch (HRW), Reprieve and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird), said the report is "fraught with inaccuracies" and amounts to disinformation that could be used as propaganda by the government of Bahrain.

"The findings of human rights organizations directly contradict your report's assessment of human rights in Bahrain," the groups' letter told Cleverly.

Jeed Basyouni, who runs Reprieve's Middle East and north Africa team, said: "For all the lip service paid in the FCDO's report to supposed human rights advances in Bahrain, this is still a place where torture by the security services is endemic and protesting against the regime can get you sentenced to death."

Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei, director of Bird, said that by failing to mention deaths in custody of three detainees in 2021, or the torture of political prisoners, the Foreign Office has misled the public.

"If the Foreign Office don't correct this report, despite credible evidence it is misleading, the Bahrain regime will use it as a sign of its reform, with UK backing," said Al-Wadaei.

"This just adds salt to the wounds of those who have lost their beloved or who have died in prison. This is happening while the UK government continues to fund institutions which are implicated in torture and human rights abuses."

New figures, released through freedom of information requests, show the UK government has channeled about £13m to Bahrain over the past decade though the Gulf Strategy Fund (GSF). The signatories also expressed concern over Britain giving money to bodies involved in human rights violations through the fund, which has been repeatedly criticized by MPs for a lack of transparency.

This week marks the 12th anniversary of the Bahrain pro-democracy uprising. An early day motion, signed by 11 MPs, including Conservative Sir Peter Bottomley, decries Bahrain's human rights record, expresses grave concern over detention and mistreatment of political prisoners and reiterates calls for the suspension of UK support and the GSF.

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