UK government financing torture and executions

By Prof Marcello Ferrada de Noli, The Indicter editor-in-chief.

Editor’s Note: The Telegraph’s exposures in “UK taxpayers’ funding ‘torture and executions’ as government secretly sends millions to foreign courts” caused concern in the international media –although not in Sweden. Russian TV Channel Izvestia asked our chief editor to comment the exposures appeared in The Telegraph’s report. An excerpt of Professor Ferrada de Noli’s comment was aired in the program Izvestia News, REN TV, Russia, 17 of April 2019. The reportage was headed “UK government accused of financing executions abroad”. [1] The full text of the answers to Izvestia TV are transcribed here below. The Indicter is an independent publication on geopolitical and human rights issues./ Dr Lena Oske MD, executive editor at The Indicter Magazine.

[Izvestia] How would you comment on The Telegraph article?

[Ferrada de Noli] The article carries important revelations on the content as well as, to certain extent,  the scope of these intervention activities from the part of the IK government. Furthermore, a central aspect is to analyse which would be the ultimate strategy at the UK government in those regards,  what aim is behind this huge deployment, yet secretive, of these “neo-colonial” interventions implemented through a variety of governmental programs under the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) –or in other developments with funds from the UK Armed Forces.

First, and in reference to the cited Article in The Telegraph [2], I can say that the scope of UK current interventions is wider than what is is reported in that article. There is mentioned Pakistan and Somaliland;  but we have a number of other countries in Eurasia and the Middle East –whose “security and justice” programs are also funded –and directly influenced– by the UK. This is the case of, for instance, Bahrain.

A report published by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) –whose foreword was authored by Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Juan E. Mendez– denounced that since 2012, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has spent more than £5 million on a programme there financed by the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, and other semi enigmatic UK agencies. And where the UK funding and “technical assistance” they provide goes?  According to the BIRD report,  the ‘assistance’ is channelled via the  Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior (MOI), responsible for the supervision of main security services, such as Bahrain’s prisons and police. Torture in prisons and police stations is “frequently employed”, concluded the investigators. [3] The UK ‘aid’ program to the security forces in Bahrain commenced at the aftermath of the Spring revolutions in the area. It has help to repress the Bahrain opposition by means which the above mentioned United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has described on this terms, referring to the use of torture in the Kingdom of Bahrain:

“The resulting view is of a country where torture remains rife, perpetrators are granted immunity, and UN torture experts are refused access. Given this, it is concerning to see the way in which anti-torture institutions have been instrumentalised to promote a false narrative about the progress made on the issue of torture in Bahrain since 2011. The profile of Bahrain’s torture reforms has been bolstered by public endorsements from global allies, including the United Kingdom, which has trained these institutions for years. There is a danger that the anti-torture bodies are used to create the veneer of compliance with the Convention, whilst deflecting global attention from the dire state of affairs that persists in Bahrain. ” [3]

When at the same time it has been indicated elsewhere that ‘Conflict, Stability and Security Fund’ is also an important funding source of the White Helmets [4] –an organization founded by the UK, financed by the U.S., U.K. and other NATO powers, while governments as Sweden provide the White Helmets with international legitimation by awarding the jihadist organization with the alternative Nobel Prize.

So far, one first conclusion arising here is that UK’s re-emerging “neo-colonialism” represents a repressive, anti-democratic design: For instance, it pursues ‘regime change’ in Syria’s through financing the jihadist-terrorists’ propaganda organization “White Helmets”, while on the other hand it provides funding, “technical advice” and training to dictatorial regimes aimed to stop democratic pursues via torture and executions.

Furthermore, in the case of Pakistan, the number of executions decided and managed by the ‘judicial systems’ receiving funding, orientation, and ‘technical assistance’ by the UK has significantly increased. And all this, without mention the UK weapons sales to the Saudis which prolong the asymmetric conflict in Yemen.

Secondly, there are UK institutions of the like whose interventionism in the domestic affairs of other countries has been recently exposed. Those agencies constitutes a complementary tactical activity within the above described strategy. One is the equally secretive “Integrity Initiative”. The aim with Integrity Initiative is to penetrate media and political circles and elites in different countries of Europe and elsewhere, to concretely disseminate disinformation about Russia, or in sum to counter arrest any thesis which would contradict or expose NATO propaganda operations.

Of course,  that any country –or group of countries– would indulge in propaganda with geopolitical content is understandable. However, what is unacceptable is when that endeavour is done through lies, fake news, or using direct libel against organizations or individuals which have exposed secret agendas –or eventually unethical or criminal doings– of those governmental institutions and their corresponding protégés in the propaganda pursuit.

The above, on how different UK or NATO agencies cooperate in their imperialist strategy, has many illustrations at hand. A most recent one is the demonization of professional journalists, or independent analysts, or independent investigative journalists or academics, even professors, which are not in line with the US/UK narrative on for instance the Syria conflict. Read, a narrative congruent with that delivered by organizations funded by the UK government, in this case the propaganda outlet “White Helmets” founded by the UK and funded through ‘Conflict, Stability and Security Fund’.

And that UK’s inter-agency cooperation abroad has been made even clearer in the Swedish case, as the international community could learn in more detail after the revelations contained in the hacked documents around ‘Integrity Initiative’:  The same Swedish actor listed in the hacked documents as the UK Integrity-Initiative’s “cluster organizer” for Sweden (allegations he of course denies), occupies prominent positions at  Swedish geopolitical research institutions; From that platform, that individual have systematically pursued to discredit Swedish journalists, academics and even professors, which have exposed deeds of the shadowed organizations funded by ‘Conflict, Stability and Security Fund’. [5]

And regarding the “transparency” issue of those UK governmental organizations, it should be the case to quote a reply form a UK government official, when asked via a Freedom of Information request  by a Bahrain human rights organization. The reply:

“Due to the nature of the Integrated Activity Fund and all the Programmes being funded by it, the information requested relating to the Fund is exempt under section 23 as it relies on information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters”. [6]

[Izvestia] What could be in the future the reaction of British people on that news?

[Ferrada de Noli] About the possible reaction of the public in the UK, I don’t think that a drastic change can be expected.  Public discussions of these sort often serve in the UK as smoke curtains to hide other, even more vicious political happenings. We have learned that behind the timing of certain public events which may draw great attention among the public, there are other deeds of geopolitical significance which the UK government wishes the people pay less attention to, or ignore.

Examples of the above could be the timing in the arrest of Julian Assange, done in the context of both decisive Brexit discussions against the government at both the parliament and at public demonstrations, and the exposures by The Telegraph –which is licit to suppose the government was informed of the incumbent publication. Another illustration could have been the case of their “Novichok” sensationalistic news episodes, which according to some hypotheses it seemingly exploded in the media at  the times UK was said to be preparing some deployment abroad of own military might, or also tried to neutralize the impact of the Russian victories in the military and political arenas of the Syria conflict.

But of course, internal news about a growing international presence of the UK military could for some people in England be satisfactory. It helps to keep the nationalistic sentiment high. And for that the UK government certainly feel the need to have an “enemy”. And since they do not have it, the UK has to create it. Ensuing, fighting against that imagined adversary –precisely as the science of logics describes the straw man fallacy.  As for today’s illustration, the news announced that the UK has sent five Apache attack helicopters to Estonia as a deterrent to “a very credible threat” from Russia…[7]

[Izvestia] What about financial aspects?

[Ferrada de Noli] It is, of course, not only about the different quantities expended by the UK in this constellation of ‘aid’ programmes, whose amounts are not completely known by the public. It is primarily the benefit that the UK gets in return, and not only pecuniary –like  in the case of UK arms exports profits in the sales to the region, and which are directly correlated to the existence of the regimes that UK helps to survive; It is the strategic gain obtained by the inversions in the military bases in those territories that would help to secure and preserve -like in the old colonialist times– the  markets for and from the UK. At least that would be the old imperialism design which the UK elites apparently wish to reestablish under the “Global Britain” parole.

It is a vicious circle. In this case a “viciously” circle. As I mentioned before, by providing funds, training,  technical advice, etc., to the repressive apparatus of those countries, the UK maintains the kind of regimes that continue to purchase outputs of the UK  arms industry. And this arms purchases are to fueling wars and domestic conflicts in the region –which gives UK the pretext of more defense expenditures in a ‘volatile geopolitical scenario’ they have helped to create and increase. And to cover all of that shall the UK elites –the same as their arms-producers and arms-dealers counterparts in the US, Sweden, Germany, France, etc., continue using the NATO/EU mantra of “Russian aggression”.

[Izvestia] Can this situation change in the future?

[Ferrada de Noli] In geopolitical terms, I don’t think this will change qualitatively. It will thou change quantitatively, it shall instead increase. Since quite some time, the rightists amongst the rightist conservative segment in the UK political scenario have tried to profile the UK as an anew-emergent world power. As we discussed above, this includes both to augment –via funding and “technical assistance” their influence on the domestic political doings of governments in different countries, and through the boosting (or boasting)  of theatrical military initiatives aimed to regain a site in the international scene. Symbolically for the  British, they now pursue anew a presence in the world oceans. That was the case when the Defence minister announced some months ago the deployment of a certain frigate to “counter arrest” Russian presence.

I believe that UK will leave EU, in spite of economic calculations regarding profits or loses. The most nationalist phalange amidst the UK elites wishes to get rid of the abiding to EU consensus policies in most geopolitical matters. What those UK elites seem to wish is instead an increasing confrontation with Russia. They seem to aspire having their ‘neo-colonial’ hands free. And it may not be fortuity that the particular scenario of the activities I have described above refers to regions of the Middle East, Central and Southern Asia. All that rather calls for the revanchist hypothesis, a retroaction to the times of the Anglo-Russian dispute known as the “Great Game”, that flourished in the nineteenth century, and which some analysts have concluded that Britain lost by 1842.

Or perhaps not just an hypothesis:

British news agency Reuters recently reminded us (11 February 2019) that “Global Britain”, the favourite slogan used by Theresa May’ “Global Britain”, is not solely aphoristic, and that, in the words of  defence minister Gavin Williamson, “the United Kingdom will be ready to flex its military muscles after it leaves the European Union”. “Since the new global great game will be played on a global playing field, we must be prepared compete for our interests and our values far, far from home.” [8]

Appendix- Main findings in the report of Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) [3].

 

  • Protesters were raped and tortured in a prison receiving UK training and support:NI-CO provided 863 days of training to Bahraini prison guards and officials, and trained 400 guards at Jau Prison, where prisoners have been tortured and are held in appalling conditions.
  • UK-trained torture investigators covered up allegations of torture and forced confessions by death row inmates
  • Bahraini police, known for torturing peaceful political protesters, received UK training on gathering “community intelligence” on protests
  • A UK-trained prison inspectorate ignored torture allegations of death row inmates:
  • A UK-trained Bahraini state human rights institution supported illegal executions and claimed ‘there is no torture’ in Bahraini prisons:
  • A DUP Minister in Northern Ireland refused to suspend assistance to Bahrain—assistance to which his party is closely linked: Stormont’s economy minister, Simon Hamilton of the DUP, refused to suspend or inquire into NI-CO’s work in Bahrain. The DUP is closely linked to the FCO’s reform agenda in Bahrain—DUP chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP chairs the Causeway Institute and works closely with NI-CO—raising concerns about a conflict of interest.
  • The UK government ignored evidence of human rights abuses: Reprieve, BIRD, and UK MPs presented evidence showing that the FCO’s partners in Bahrain had tortured Abbas, Sami, Ali, Mohamed and Husain, and acted to secure their illegal death sentences. The UK government rejected these concerns. The UK has never acknowledged wrongdoing by its reform bodies in the cases of death row inmates, and has never expressed concern publicly about mistreatment of any of the five men.
  • There is no evidence of human rights conditions attached to UK assistance: Reprieve, BIRD, and UK MPs called on the UK to place conditions on its assistance and require Bahrain to take basic anti-torture steps as a pre-condition to receiving further UK assistance. It appears that no binding human rights pre-conditions were attached to the UK’s assistance, and Bahrain failed to sign binding anti-torture guarantees and allow independent UN prison inspections – suggesting no such conditions were ever required.
  • The UK lobbied aggressively for Bahrain on the international stage:Despite overwhelming evidence of these institutions’ misconduct, FCO ministers lobbied enthusiastically for Bahrain around the world, even acting to suppress international criticism of Bahrain’s human rights abuses at the UN Human Rights Council.
  • The UK cloaked its reform programme in secrecy: The UK government refused to release basic details about projects whose ostensible aim was human rights reform, including any of its Overseas Security and Justice Assistance (OSJA) human rights risk assessments. The government also refused to say when UK 15 trainers were stationed in specific Bahraini prisons—information that would reveal whether UK government employees were present while inmates were tortured.
  • UK bodies appear to have pulled out of their reform work in Bahrain, whilst the funding continues without any transparency: Reprieve and BIRD can also reveal that the bodies implementing the FCO’s reform programme in Bahrain—NI-CO, HMIP and Causeway— appear to have pulled out of all of these projects. The FCO has refused to provide any information about this decision, whilst providing little detail about the new funding streams supporting future work, how much money is still being provided, or which arms of the UK government are now implementing these programmes.”

References, Notes:

[1] Правительство Великобритании обвинили в финансировании казней за рубежом

http://ren.tv/novosti/2019-04-17/pravitelstvo-velikobritanii-obvinili-v-finansirovanii-kazney-za-rubezhom

[2] UK taxpayers’ funding ‘torture and executions’ as government secretly sends millions to foreign courts”? The Telegraph, 13 April 2019.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/04/13/uk-taxpayers-funding-torture-executions-government-secretly/

[3] “Training Torturers: The Uk’s Role in Bahrain’s Brutal Crackdown on Dissent “

https://reprieve.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/TRAINING-TORTURERS-THE-UK%E2%80%99s-ROLE-IN-BAHRAIN%E2%80%99S-BRUTAL-CRACKDOWN-ON-DISSENT.pdf

[4] “UK may increase aid to Syrian White Helmets after Trump pulls funding”. The Guardian, 10 May 2018.

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/may/10/uk-aid-syria-white-helmets-trump-pulls-funding

[5] M. Ferrada de Noli, “Integrity Initiative scandal reaches Sweden amidst deceiving media debate on Kragh“. The Indicter Magazine, 25 March 2019.

http://theindicter.com/integrity-initiative-scandal-reaches-sweden-amidst-deceiving-media-debate-on-kragh/

[6] UK Spooks Involved in Controversial Police Training Scheme for Dictatorship

https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/bj3wmd/uk-spooks-involved-in-controversial-police-training-scheme-for-dictatorship

The following explicative note appeared in the Vice article:

“Section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act says that any documents linked to Britain’s spy agencies MI6, MI5 and GCHQ, as well as the special forces, should not be disclosed to the public. The Cabinet Office said in a letter that, “Section 23 is an absolute exemption and there is no requirement to conduct a public interest test.” It added that releasing any other information about the scheme would damage diplomatic ties with Bahrain.”

[7] “UK deploys Apache attack helicopters to Estonia to deter ‘very credible’ Russian threat “. SkyNews, 15 April 2019.

https://news.sky.com/story/uk-deploys-apache-attack-helicopters-to-estonia-to-deter-very-credible-russian-threat-11694667

[8] “UK pitches ‘global Britain’ by flexing military muscle – defence minister”. Reuters, 11 February 2019.

https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-defence-power/uk-pitches-global-britain-by-flexing-military-muscle-defence-minister-idUSKCN1Q010U