UK trained hundreds of guards at Bahrain’s death row prison, new report finds
September 29, 2016
The FCO funded training for hundreds of prison guards at Bahrain’s death row jail, where an innocent man faces imminent execution after ‘confessing’ under torture, a new report by anti-death penalty charity Reprieve has found.
Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO), a state-owned Belfast business, received almost a million pounds in UK taxpayer money last year for work with Bahrain’s interior ministry. In 2015 more than a dozen NI-CO experts worked with Bahrain’s prison staff at jails where systematic torture took place, and trained as many as 400 guards who work at Jau, which holds prisoners awaiting execution.
Reprieve’s report, Belfast to Bahrain: the torture trail, highlights the case of one death row inmate, Mohammed Ramadan, a former policeman and father of three young children who was tortured into making a false confession.
The UK Foreign Office paid NI-CO to train Bahrain’s Ombudsman to handle complaints about abuse by security forces. However, the watchdog refused for more than two years to investigate complaints about Mr Ramadan’s torture, robbing him of vital evidence with which to challenge his wrongful conviction. When the Ombudsman eventually began to investigate earlier this year, it flouted international minimum standards for torture inquiries and intimidated Mr Ramadan’s wife by interrogating her about contact with foreign NGOs.
NI-CO is embedded in Bahrain’s internal security apparatus, raising concerns about conflicts of interest. A victim could be abused by NI-CO trained police, tortured in prison by NI-CO trained guards, and then have their torture allegation investigated and dismissed by the NI-CO trained ombudsman.
Reprieve’s report, published today, also highlights NI-CO’s work with other repressive regimes, such as a €9m project in Egypt funded by the EU. NI-CO’s work in Egypt appears to have continued despite the situation of Irish student Ibrahim Halawa, who faces a potential death sentence after he was swept up in a mass arrest aged just 17.
Reprieve has called on NI-CO to stop work with Bahrain’s Interior Ministry until the Bahraini government ratifies international laws against torture and allows independent UN inspections.
Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:
“The UK Foreign Office is financing a whitewash of Mohammed Ramadan’s torture and coerced confession, leaving an innocent man languishing on death row and his family afraid to speak out. UK money is complicit in covering up torture in Bahrain. The Foreign Office needs to come clean about what it has paid NI-CO to do with a repressive regime like Bahrain.”
Notes for Editors:
1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 20 7553 8140. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064.
2. Reprieve’s report, Belfast to Bahrain: the torture trail, is available to download here