Reprieve, an international human rights group, has asked a private security contractor to shelve the contract it has been awarded to train the Bahraini security forces.
NI-CO, or Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas, is a subsidiary of Invest NI and was awarded a contract by the foreign office in 2015 worth £900,000 to train and reform the security forces of Bahrain.
Reprieve has stated that prison and police officers in Bahrain are abusing and torturing government opponents. However, NI-CO has stated that the training that it provides to Bahrain’s security forces is according to the recommendations of the Bahrain Commission of Inquiry and the UN.
The company has stated that it has project teams based in Bahrain that have been working with the state’s justice and security divisions. NI-CO teams have also worked with the state’s ombudsman office. This office is responsible for investigating claims of torture.
Reprieve Deputy Director Harriet McCulloch stated that Bahrain’s police and prisons are known to systematically torture and abuse political prisoners. The UN, several NGOs and governments of other nations have acknowledged that human rights violations are regularly taking place in Bahrain.
Civil unrest in Bahrain started in 2011 when the Shia community protested against the discrimination meted out against it by the Sunni Muslim royal family while asking for more freedom and democracy. This protest was quelled by the Saudi military.
The Shia community claims that it is discriminated against when it comes to jobs and states, but monitors within and outside the country have stated that the human rights situation has improved compared to what it was in 2011.
While there is no evidence to show that NI-CO staff support human rights violations in Bahrain, Reprieve claims that parent company Invest NI has not properly supervised the work of the company. Hence, NI-CO should stop working until the Bahrain Government endorses the UN’s decree against torture and also allows a UN official to visit the country to check on allegations of torture and abuse.