The British government has been using public funds to to support institutions known for “whitewashibg” human rights abuses in the Middle East.
A cross-party group of MPs, including Tory MP and father of the house Peter Bottomley, revealed in a report that London sent at least £53.4 million in public funds to the six Gulf Cooperation Council states between 2016 and 2020
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Democracy and Human Rights in the #Gulf, which drew up the report, noted that the money is going to institutions that stand accused of committing terrible human rights abuses.
The MPs also accused the government of making “misleading and deceptive” claims about the way it spends public funds in the region. They also charge that the UK government has “repeatedly ignored evidence” that the money is being spent on human rights abusers.
Even worse, the report suggest, the government’s mandatory human rights impact assessments are “flawed, improperly applied and entirely absent in some cases”.
The has sought closer relationships with the Gulf states following Brexit, fueling fears that Britain, in its quest for trade alternatives to the EU, might end up serving states with poor human rights records.
“Millions of pounds are being taken from the British #taxpayer and spent secretively in Gulf states, some of the richest nations on earth,” said Andy Slaughter, Labour MP for Hammersmith and APPG Vice-Chair.
“Despite a severe deterioration in human rights in states like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the government continues to ignore warnings from parliament, human rights groups and their own evaluations and throw millions of pounds of public funds at institutions consistently implicated in human rights violations. This funding should be halted pending an immediate investigation.”
#Saudi Arabia, #Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, #Qatar, #Kuwait and #Oman, which make up the Gulf Cooperation Council, all have poor human rights records, according to NGOs.
The investigation by the MPs focuses on payments made to these states through the government’s Integrated Activity Fund (IAF), which operated between 2016 and 2020, and its successor, the Gulf Strategy Fund (GSF).
Beneficiaries of the funding include the Saudi Arabian National Guard, and the country’s Joint Incident Assessment Team, which has been repeatedly criticized by NGO Human Rights Watch for “failing to provide credible, impartial, and transparent investigations into alleged coalition laws-of-war violations”.
“UK funding to Saudi Arabia thus supports bodies accused of breaching international law and whitewashing war crimes in Yemen,” the MPs say.
The UK has also been providing Bahrain with “technical assistance”, aimed to allegedly support its “progress on building effective and accountable institutions, strengthening the rule of law, and justice reform.”
However, in reality the money is going to organizations that the MPs say are “internationally discredited” with regards to human rights such as the country’s the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman and the National Institute for Human Rights (NIHR).
“Despite pouring millions of pounds into Gulf states over the last five years, this report shows that UK-backed institutions continue to be implicated in appalling human rights violations, including alleged war crimes, executions and the torture of children,” said Josie Thum, secretariat of the APPG and Research and Policy Associate at the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD).
“As they seek to deepen trade ties with the Gulf, the government must start putting people above profits and come clean with the public about how their money is being spent in the region.”