Scottish MP speaks of horror at Britain funding amid Bahrain torture claims

A Scottish MP has spoken of his horror at how Britain is paying £1.8 million a year to reportedly fund policing institutions in Bahrain where prisoners are sentenced to death on the basis of confessions that have been beaten out of them.

Alistair Carmichael, Lib Dem spokesman on home affairs and justice, was speaking at the launch of new report that calls for a halt to payments by the Gulf Strategy Fund (GSF) to security forces in the tiny Gulf state where 26 men are on death row.

Many were convicted solely on the basis of confessions extracted through torture methods, including electric shocks, beatings, sexual assaults and hanging by the arms for days.

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Mr Carmichael said: “I think most British taxpayers will be absolutely horrified to learn about the use to which money which we pay to foreign governments is being put. The fact that it’s going to a system which uses the death penalty in this way just takes that to another level.”

Maher Abbas al-Khabbaz (left) was arrested after a policeman was killed with a flare gun at pro-democracy demonstration

The MP was speaking at the Westminster launch of the report, called “’The Court is Satisfied with the Confession’: Bahrain Death Sentences Follow Torture, Sham Trials”, compiled by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD).

The report examined six cases where prisoners had been sentenced to death solely on the basis of confessions it was claimed were extracted through beatings, sleep deprivation and use of electrical shocks to the chest and genitals.

Hotel bellboy Maher Abbas al-Khabbaz, 27, was arrested after a policeman was killed with a flare gun at pro-democracy demonstration. This was despite an alibi saying he was at work at the time and no other evidence against him.

He said: “Officers tied and hanged me using a metal bar between my legs. They then started beating me. They took off my shoes and socks and put them in my mouth. They started hitting me with a plastic club for long hours everywhere on my body. I remained in this state for a few days until blood stopped reaching my legs”.

The family of Mohamed Ramadhan, 37, are campaigning for his release after the father-of-three was sentenced to death for the killing of a policeman hit by a flare during pro-democracy protests.

Campaigners say there is no evidence against the former security guard except for a confession of another man, Husain Moosa, extracted under torture.

According to a Freedom of Information request by BIRD, the Bahrain Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of the Interior Ombudsman, and the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) in 2020/21 all received funding from the GSF, and all were implicated in the report.

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Mr Carmichael, a long-time campaigner against the death penalty across the world, said he was surprised how soft the UK was being on Bahrain over human rights abuses.

The Foreign Office said it funded projects in Bahrain to support the country’s reforms of its justice system.

A spokesman said: “All projects on justice and security issues with partners overseas are subject to rigorous risk assessments to meet our human rights’ expectations. While we recognise challenges remain, stepping back from supporting reforms would be counterproductive.”

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