UK aid paid for military band to play at Queens birthday event in toxic Bahrain

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Questions raised about utilize of secretive 1bn British aid and security fund for celebration in Gulf state accused of serious human rights abuses

MPs and rights groups have reacted with uneasines over the use of a secretive 1bn government aid and security fund to pay for a Royal Marines band to play in Bahrain for the Queen Elizabeths 90 th birthday, despite the countrys dire human rights record.

Funds from the conflict, stability and security fund( CSSF ), which is aimed at tackling conflicts and build stability overseas, were used to send the Royal Marines band to Bahrain in April 2016 at a cost of 25,000 to the taxpayer.

The fund, which is being investigated by British MPs, is so secretive that the government has refused to uncover the names of countries in which the money is expended or uncover how the fund operates or even which project it supports.

But documents provided under the Freedom of Information Act have indicated that the band was invited to the Gulf state at the request of the Bahrain Defence Force and Ministry of Interior. The government has been linked to dozens of deaths since February 2011, when Bahrains Shia majority launched pro-democracy protests in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

Torture and other abuses remain common in Bahrain, according to Amnesty International, and the government continues to curtail freedom of expression, association and assembly.

The documents come after the Guardian disclosed that Bahraini authorities would receive a further 2m in funding, including assistance money be learned from the CSSF.

The Queens birthday event, held at the British delegation in Manama, was sponsored by HSBC and British Airways. Some 200 guests attended, including deputy prime minister Sheikh Khalid bin Abdulla al-Khalifa, a key is part of the ruling family.

Sayed al-Wadaei, administrator of advocacy at the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy( Bird ), called for the CSSF and the UKs toxic relationship with Bahrain to be raised as an election issue.

He told the Guardian: With little clarity, authorities to spend taxpayers currency propping up a tyrannical regiman in Bahrain which maintains its rule through incarceration and torturing of critics. Bahrain and its ally Saudi Arabia contribute to the problems not the stability of the Middle East, and the toxic relationship to these repressing countries reproaches Britain.

The revelation that one of Britains most prestigious military stripes played in the kingdom heightens the question of Londons complicity in whitewashing abuse in Bahrain. It arrives periods after authorities in the two countries rounded up 32 protesters in a clampdown on the eve of a key UN human rights session. In March, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa approved a constitutional amendment that allows military courts to try civilians.

Tom Brake MP, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for foreign affairs, mentioned: The official languages act would point out that rather than putting human rights abuses first, the prime minister “d rather” send a marching stripe to sing lavish kudoes for a nation whose vistum of democracy and freedom of speech is simply shocking.

The event at the British delegation took place only weeks before the tycoon travelled to Britain to sit in pride of place next to the Queen at her 90 th birthday extravaganza at Windsor Castle.

The documents, obtained by Bird and ensure by the Guardian, likewise have indicated that the bands visit was just one of 37 events, exchanges or training programmes offered to Bahrain by British armed forces since 2015, creating the opportunities offered by UK complicity in abuses.

The training, which took place in Bahrain and in the UK, and was paid for by a mixture of CSSF, UK military and Bahrain government funding, included upper-class commando educate, officer training at the Sandhurst military academy, and bomb disposal training.

It also included Royal Navy visits to Bahrain and Royal Air Force training in breath duel management to improve the Gulf states strike ability. This will dismay the individuals who announce Bahrain is playing a key role in the controversial Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen.

In addition to paying for the Royal Marines band, CSSF money was also used to deploy law enforcement officers from the British Army to serve with the Bahrain Defence Force. And up to 70,000 from the fund is available in counter-improvised explosive machine training.

The CSSF, which operates in more than 40 countries, is overseen by the national security council, cabinet ministers committee that includes senior diplomats, military boss and secret services brains, inspiring charges from the Labor party that it is leading to the militarisation of Britains development budget.

In addition to Bahrain, fears have also been raised over the funds apparent links to Ethiopian and Myanmarese security force, amid allegations from MPs investigating the fund that they were working in the dark because of its opaque nature.

The secrecy surrounding the fund has undercut the governments objectives for clarity over assistance fund, according to the seam committee members “the member states national” protection strategy.

It is not clear how the use of the fund in Bahrain supports the prevention of conflict, inspiring charges that the CSSF is being misused.

If the British government is really interested in Bahrains stability, it is appropriate to criticise its Gulf ally for mashing the life out of its peaceful opposition, mentioned Nicholas McGeehan, a Bahrain researcher at Human Rights Watch. Instead it seems to play the role of cheerleader-in-chief, rolling out the red carpet, and furnishing British pomps and splendour at every available opportunity, while Bahrain fills its prisons. British MPs should be asking very serious questions about this use of taxpayers money.

A UK Ministry of Defence spokesperson mentioned: Where we have concerns about human rights we will continue to raise them at an appropriate level, both in private and in public. Any assistance of training complies with our domestic and international human rights obligations.

Read more: http :// www.theguardian.com/ us

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