A group of British MPs launched a campaign to suspend “secretive” funding programs to Gulf countries, mainly in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, over their poor human rights record.
The MPs said that the multi-million-pound programmes, supported by the Integrated Activity Fund (IAF), could place the UK at risk of being involved in human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
According to a report issued by the group, the IAF-supported institutions in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain whitewashed human rights abuses, placing the UK government at risk of complicity in abuses themselves.
“Government funding to GCC states through the [Gulf Strategy Fund] should be immediately suspended pending an independent inquiry into its implication in human rights and international law violations,” it said.
Commenting on the report, the Foreign Office claimed that all co-operation through the fund was “subject to rigorous risk assessments to ensure all work meets our human rights obligations and our values”.
“We do not shy away from raising legitimate human rights concerns and encourage other states to respect international law,” it said.
However, the report accused the UK government of being “misleading” and “deceptive” about the IAF by saying it was claimed to be a fund for health, sports, and culture, not for Bahrain’s security matters.
Bahrain has been involved in serious human rights violations after brutally suppressing pro-democracy protests that sparked across the country in 2011.
Since then, dozens of leading human rights activists and advocacy groups were jailed amid torture allegations.
Saudi Arabia is also accused of being involved in war crimes in Yemen which led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.