International human rights organization Reprieve has accused the UK Foreign Office of running a program to train Bahraini forces, who it says are systematically torturing and abusing regime opponents.
Reprieve published a report Thursday calling on Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO) to immediately suspend its contract with Bahrain to train its police and prison guards.
NI-CO was awarded a £900,000 Foreign Office contract last year to train Bahraini forces. The Belfast-based company confirmed to the BBC that it has worked on behalf of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Bahrain since 2013.
NI-CO “received almost a million pounds in UK taxpayer money last year for work with Bahrain’s interior ministry,” Reprieve said.
The London-based rights group said NI-CO experts trained as many as 400 guards at Jau Prison - which holds prisoners awaiting execution - last year.
NI-CO’s engagement in Bahrain raises concerns about conflicts of interest, Reprieve said.
"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," it explained.
Harriet McCulloch, Reprieve’s deputy director said, “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.”
Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom on February 14, 2011.
They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and a just system representing all Bahrainis be established.
Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested in the ongoing crackdown.