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UK university's links to Bahrain 'torture hub' exposed in parliamentary report

University of Huddersfield [Adrian Jones/Flickr]
University of Huddersfield [Adrian Jones/Flickr]

A British university's affiliations to a Bahraini institution accused of human rights abuses has been highlighted in a parliamentary report following a plea by an 11-year-old boy who insisted that his father, currently on death row, is innocent.

According to the Yorkshire Post, a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy and Human Rights in the Gulf revealed that British taxpayer-funded human rights watchdogs in Bahrain had covered up torture allegations, one of which led to the conviction of the boy's father, Mohammed Ramadhan. His son Ahmed's plea included in the report, claims that his father is awaiting the death sentence "for a crime he didn't commit".

The University of Huddersfield has faced calls by 40 cross party MPs and peers earlier this year, pressing the university to close a master's programme it currently runs at Bahrain's Royal Academy of Policing after "multiple claims" emerged that the same building has been used to torture political dissidents. Staff and students at the university have also demanded the course be scrapped "immediately", describing the university's links with torture as "reprehensible".

In the report's foreword, Brendan O'Hara MP and Lord Scrivern said: "Having met personally with victims such as Ahmed Ramadhan, the 11-year-old son of Bahraini death row inmate, it is appalling to see efforts to put an end to violations obstructed by the UK government time and again."

READ: Remembering the Bahraini Uprising

"Ahmed's father Mohammed could now be executed at any moment with little warning given to his wife and three children, despite the United Nations (UN) calling for his immediate release and compensation."

Citing the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, the report found that the British-funded Special Investigations Unit, which was tasked with looking into the human rights abuses, was "critically flawed" and failed to meet "the minimum professional standards and minimum legal standards".

However, a spokesperson at the University of Huddersfield defended the running of the MSc Security Science programme, arguing that it was "in line with the mission advocated by the UK government" and that the master's course was intended to help equip and modernise Bahraini policing practises and methods.

Following the university's refusal to suspend the course, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), said: "Despite the severity of the torture allegations against their business partner, the university management has chosen to bury their heads in the sand while continuing to profit from their toxic deal with Bahrain."

The course has been running since April 2018 when its former chancellor Prince Andrew visited Bahrain. However, the Duke of York resigned from the post in November 2019 after mounting criticism over his sexual abuse allegations and links to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

READ: Report shows 600% rise in death sentences in Bahrain since 2011

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