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Human Rights abuses in Bahrain cast shadow over £2m UK aid support

The government is facing fresh questions about Britain’s aid strategy after it emerged that a controversial multi-million pound programme of support for Bahrain’s security and justice system is being bolstered this year, even as the Gulf state reverses reforms to a key intelligence agency accused of torture.

Data provided under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that Bahraini authorities will this year receive a further £2m of British funding, including aid money drawn from the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, a pot of aid money currently the focus of an investigation by UK MPs.

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Former PM David Cameron visits Bahrain amid speculation he may follow Blair's lead

David Cameron visited Bahrain this week to meet with the Kingdom's Crown Prince and business leaders, Middle East Eye can reveal.

The visit, which saw Cameron thanked for his “prominent role” in advancing Bahrain-UK ties, comes after recent reports that the former Prime Minister is following in the footsteps of Tony Blair and has set up a private firm to handle his post-10 Downing Street affairs.

The former Prime Minister, whose period in office saw ever closer diplomatic and military ties with Bahrain despite ongoing human rights concerns, arrived in the country on Tuesday and held meetings with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

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Trial of Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya’s Reporter Nazeeha Saeed Begins Monday

On 16 January 2017, a Bahraini court will begin hearing the trial of the correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya and France24, Nazeeha Saeed, who was was charged on 17 July 2016 with “practicing journalism without a license.” We, the undersigned human rights organizations, condemn the judicial harassment of Saeed for her work as a journalist and call on the Government of Bahrain to drop all charges against her and suspend its campaign against foreign reporters.

The case against Nazeeha Saeed was filed based on a Ministry of Information Affairs complaint that Saeed was reporting for an international press body without a license. Saeed applied to renew her foreign media work permit in March 2016, in accordance with the Bahraini press law. The Ministry of Information Affairs rejected Saeed’s license renewal without providing legal grounds.

Saeed has been charged under the “publishing crimes” chapter, in Article 88 of Law 47/2002, under which all Bahraini journalists working for foreign news agencies are prevented from freely conducting their work without first acquiring a license from the Ministry of the Information Affairs, which must be renewed annually. The law provides no criteria or definitive timelines for the renewal process, nor does it provide any means for transparency of the process.

Saeed is a torture survivor. Describing her torture in police custody in 2011, Saeed said she was blindfolded, kicked, punched, and slapped. Her hair was pulled, she was whipped with plastic tubing, had a shoe forced into her mouth and her head dunked into a toilet. An unknown, caustic liquid said to be urine was poured onto her face, she was repeatedly insulted and mentally abused and asked to make a false confession. Although she had three independant medical reports - two of them issued by Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior - and she was also able to identify her five torturers, no one was held accountable for her torture. During June and July 2016 Saeed faced further harassments the government imposed a travel ban on her without any explanation. The ban was later lifted.

In addition to Saeed, the Ministry of Information Affairs has denied license renewals to at least three other Bahrain-based reporters for Reuters, Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press. Since 2011, Bahrain has placed extensive restrictions on foreign media access to the country, having denied over 100 journalists entry to the country in an effort to stop international media coverage of the ongoing political and civil unrest.

Bahrain’s actions to prosecute and silence foreign correspondents is in violation of the freedom of expression as protected under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We therefore express our deep concern about the Government of Bahrain’s continued efforts to undermine the right to freedom of expression and call on the government to:

  • Drop all charges against Nazeeha Saeed;
  • Allow all journalists and reporters to conduct their work freely and independently, and to fully respect their right to freedom of expression.


Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)

European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

UK trains Bahraini troops as May puts trade before human rights

British commandos trained Bahrain’s security forces in small arms and sniping tactics just two days after Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain would not “snipe” from the sidelines over human rights concerns in the county, Middle East Eye can reveal.

An investigation by MEE has revealed that the controversial training for Bahraini forces - which violently put down pro-democracy protests during the Arab Spring in 2011 - took place during Pearl Dagger 2016, an infantry exercise held in the country in December.

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UK helped train Saudi unit accused of whitewashing Yemen war crimes

The British military has provided training to a Saudi war crimes investigations unit headed by a Bahraini judge accused of sentencing peaceful protesters to lengthy jail terms, where they were often tortured.

Campaigners say the training, which was detailed in Foreign Office documents released on Monday, make the British government complicit in both whitewashing abuses in Bahrain and the failure to properly investigate potential war crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

The appointment last year of Colonel Mansour al-Mansour, a military lawyer, as a legal adviser to the Saudi-led Joint Incident Assessments Team (JIAT) was heavily criticised by human rights groups at the time, who said the military judge was complicit in torture in the wake of pro-democracy protests in 2011. 

Colonel Mansour was the presiding judge of the National Security Court, which activists claim, oversaw the lengthy detention of more than 300 protesters in what amounted to military trials. 

Many of the protesters went on to claim they were tortured while in custody. The court also oversaw the trial of the so-called “Bahrain 13”, a group of leading human rights defenders and politicians who were arrested from March to May 2011 and subjected to torture while in custody.

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Home Office linked to spyware in human rights row

A British security company criticised after its spyware was used by authoritarian foreign states has been invited to attend a government sales conference.

Gamma International UK has defied a ruling by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that it broke human rights guidelines after its spyware was used by Bahrain to target dissidents in Britain.

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Bahrain exposed: Repression & theocratic supremacism in the kingdom island

The human rights black hole no one wants to talk about for fear of exposing imperialism fingerprints, Bahrain has died a thousand oppressions under the unrepentant gaze of western capitalism – the monarchy to be sustained so that a region could be tamed.

Bahrain has officially gone backwards in its reform process. In a last-ditch attempt to crackdown on the opposition, the al-Khalifa monarchy has now chosen to tighten its grip on the kingdom by giving its security apparatus exceptional powers against all dissidents.

The term 'dissident' here applies to whoever imagines oneself free.

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