UK boosts funding for crackdowns in Gulf states guilty of human rights abuses

The UK is quietly boosting funding to help Gulf countries condemned for human rights abuses improve “public order” and implement crackdowns, including on children. Saudi

Arabia, which executed 81 men in a single day in March, is receiving cash for “counter terrorism” as well as for “strategic communications” and “influencer engagement”, a document

shows. The regime in Riyadh has also provoked outrage by handing a 34-year jail sentence to a Saudi student and mother-of-two at Leeds University for retweeting posts by

dissidents. Bahrain, accused of abusing children detained without access to a lawyer or their parents, is being given funding for “the implementation of the juvenile justice

law”. Oman’s funding is partly for “public order” and “public safety training”, the Foreign Office says, while the United Arab Emirates gets support for its prosecution

service. One human rights group accused the government of “scandalously” rewarding “filthy rich regimes” guilty of ongoing human rights violations through its secretive Gulf

Strategy Fund. The vice-chair of a parliamentary group shining the spotlight on abuses in the Gulf vowed to “demand answers” from ministers as soon as Westminster returns

from its shutdown following the Queen’s death. And the UK Director of Human Rights Watch accused ministers of “shady aid for trade deals”, saying: “British taxpayers’ money

is being sent to repeat and unrepentant human rights abusers.” Pointing to funding for Bahrain’s ‘juvenile justice law’, Yasmine Ahmed added: “Human Rights Watch has

documented grave abuses of children under this law, but the UK praises the initiative and provides more funding.”