Foreign Office silent over alleged UK training of Bahraini forces’ shooting of teenager

Nathanael Williams

Mustafa Hamdan dies of head wound after police shooting by security forces trained and overseen by UK, according to human rights groups

UK FOREIGN OFFICE officials have failed to respond to claims by human rights groups that UK trained police were responsible for the gunning down of 18 year-old Mustafa Hamdan, who has died two months after being shot in the head.

His death over the weekend, after two months in a coma, is being classed as an extrajudicial killing by human rights organisations and has fuelled demands for international investigations into the stalling of reform in the small Gulf state.

Hamdan was shot on 26 January, when men alleged by activists to be non-uniformed police assaulted demonstrators at a peaceful sit-in in Duraz village in the middle of the night.

“Now he is dead, and the government of Bahrain is too cowardly to even acknowledge their responsibility, fostering a culture of impunity.” Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy for the Bahrain institute for rights and democracy (Bird) said: “Mustafa was unquestionably killed at the hands of Bahrain’s security forces. Their reckless shooting at protesters is the action of violent gangsters, not a responsible state. Now he is dead, and the Government of Bahrain is too cowardly to even acknowledge their responsibility, fostering a culture of impunity.”

Campaigners say Mustafa Hamdan was denied the immediate medical care he desperately needed such as hospital care and an ambulance. According to their accounts, his brother was forced to drive him to Salmaniya Medical Complex where 35 police officers and Mustafa’s mother were waiting.

After an extended delay, Mustafa was eventually accepted for hospital treatment having suffered a skull fracture, concussion and internal bleeding from the shooting. However, he would succumb to his head wound on Friday (24 March) after being in a comatose state since the shooting.

Alleged  non-uniformed police shooting at peaceful protestors in Duraz

According to human rights body Reprieve and confirmed by the UK Foreign Office, between 2015 and 2016, the foreign office awarded northern Irish police bodies over £900,000 out of a £2m aid package to promote purported human rights reform in the Gulf kingdom. Since 2013, 400 Bahraini officers have trained with 13 NI-CO officers, with trainers from NI going to work in the infamous Jau prison where accusations of systemic torture have persisted. Human rights bodies such as Reprieve have pointed to this as evidence of collusion between the UK authorities and the Bahraini Government. 

The Government of Bahrain has released no statements about Mustafa Hamdan’s shooting and no branch of the security forces have accepted responsibility or faced public investigation. Its National Security Agency (NSA), is suspected by the Swiss Government to have been involved and have a record of carrying out extra-judicial murders while wearing plain clothes on operations. Last week Maya Tissafi, the Swiss ambassador, was summoned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, Bahrain’s dictator, for the accusations.

In response to several enquiries by CommonSpace, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office first stated it would “look into the issue” but has now failed to provide a response.

“Mustafa was unquestionably killed at the hands of Bahrain’s security forces. Their reckless shooting at protesters is the action of violent gangsters, not a responsible state.” Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei

The UK Government’s reluctance to comment is considered “intolerable and immoral” by Bird and Human Rights Watch, who have pointed to the connections between the UK Government and Bahrain’s security services.

The UK Government have been repeatedly criticised for associations with the Bahraini regime, which has deployed it’s criminal investigation unit (CID), NSA and the Bahrain defence force (BDF), a sectarian state militia used to put down democratic protests since the 2011 Arab Spring. Boris Johnson last year celebrated the final completion of a new naval base in the country; the UK’s first permanent military base in the region since 1971.

The foreign secretary also praised the reemergence of Britain’s presence “east of Suez”, which is a phrase associated with the UK’s influence in its heyday of imperial power.

Mustafa Hamdan lying in a coma after being shot by forces alleged to be connected with UK training schemes

Observers in the House of Lords and human rights organisations have argued that the inconsistencies between Bahrain’s claims of democratic reform and its brutal suppression of peaceful protests are ignored by the UK Government due to a beneficial military and financial client relationship.

The village of Duraz has been subjected to a police blockade since June 2016, when authorities rendered stateless Sheikh Isa Qassim, the most senior Shia cleric in Bahrain. Qassim’s home in Duraz has been the centre of a sit-in since that time. Police have blocked off nearly all entrances to the village and established checkpoints at the remaining few.

The kingdom of Bahrain is a Shia-majority nation with a Sunni royal family which has historically monopolised power in the country. Following the Arab Spring in 2011 and the protests which accompanied its arrival in Bahrain, the authorities have insisted that all dissident elements are terrorists encouraged by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Pictures courtesy of Bird

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