LONDON (Middle East Eye) – British MPs are calling on the country’s government to suspend “secretive” funding programs to Persian Gulf countries that could place the UK at risk of being complicit in human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
The all-party parliamentary group on democracy and human rights in the Persian Gulf said the multi-million-pound programs, supported by the Integrated Activity Fund (IAF), were run with “absolute minimum levels of accountability, transparency and diligence in spite of being repeatedly implicated in human rights violations”.
The groups’ report, as quoted in the Financial Times, said that IAF-supported institutions in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain “whitewashed human rights abuses, placing the UK government at risk of complicity in abuses themselves”.
“Government funding to GCC states through the [Persian Gulf Strategy Fund] should be immediately suspended pending an independent inquiry into its implication in human rights and international law violations,” it said.
The IAF, which was later replaced by the Persian Gulf Strategy Fund (GSF), was launched in 2016 and was established to provide funding for investment in programs in the Persian Gulf region.
It has been criticized by rights groups for being “not able to disclose information related to IAF programs in greater detail”, citing a “duty to maintain the confidence and confidentiality of our partners”.
The report said the IAF spent £53m ($73m) between 2016 and 2017 and between 2019 and 2020.
After multiple Freedom of Information requests and heavy criticism over the lack of transparency of the British taxpayer-funded initiative, Secretary of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly promised last year to publish a summary of future activities.
The Times said the report accused the government of being “misleading” and “deceptive” about the IAF by saying it was claimed to be a fund for health, sports and culture, and not for security matters in Bahrain.