UK lawmakers and rights groups have denounced the government’s use of a secretive fund to pay for the celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday in Bahrain.
Money from the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF), which should be spent to tackle conflicts and build stability overseas, was used to send the Royal Marines band to Manama for the ceremony in April 2016, costing the British taxpayers £25,000, The Guardian reported.
Some MPs slammed the use of the £1 billion fund in a dictatorial kingdom, which, according to Amnesty International, curtails freedom of expression and tortures dissidents behind bars.
Bahrain has been leading a ruthless crackdown against domestic dissent since 2011, killing scores of protesters with the help of Saudi Arabia.
According to documents revealed by The Guardian, Britain spent £2.1 million on a package of “reform assistance” to the Bahraini security sector in April 2016, under a program overseen by the Foreign Office.
“With little transparency, the government is spending taxpayer’s cash propping up a dictatorial regime in Bahrain which maintains its rule through imprisonment and torture of critics,” Sayed al-Wadaei, director of advocacy at London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird), told The Guardian.
“Bahrain and its ally Saudi Arabia contribute to the problems – not the stability – of the Middle East, and the toxic relationship to these repressive countries shames Britain,” he added.
MP Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat spokesman for foreign affairs, said, “This act shows that rather than putting human rights abuses first, the prime minister would rather send a marching band to sing lavish praises for a nation whose view of democracy and freedom of speech is simply shocking.”
Since 2011, Bahraini people have been holding protests to demand reforms and a democratic state, but the government has been giving a heavy-handed security response to the popular protests.