Reprieve Report on human rights in Bahrain

In a report, issued in September 2016, Reprieve organisation has called on NI-CO, a North Irish company, to stop training of security forces in Bahrain, citing the existence of concerns about torture.

Reprieve, is a London-based human rights organization which provides legal services to individuals, who are classified as victims of unjust laws or policies, by litigating on their behalf, in addition to trying to use the judiciary in a strategic manner to bring about radical changes in favour of human rights. Reprieve says that its vision is to see a world free of execution, torture and detention without due process.

NI-CO (Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas Ltd) is a non-profit body affiliated to the Government of Northern Ireland which benefits from its services, including the transfer of expertise and training for police and prison staff in many countries, in order to change their behaviour and culture, and ensure their commitment to human rights standards.


But Reprieve, issued a report entitled ‘Belfast to Bahrain: The Torture Trail’, calling on NI-CO to stop assisting Bahrain’s Interior Ministry until its government ratifies a United Nations protocol against torture and allows independent UN investigations.

The report has sought to stimulate the Northern Irish parliament to line up with Reprieve’s position by saying that “Ministers in Northern Ireland have urgent questions to answer about the company’s activities and the lack of oversight the Government of Northern Ireland exercises over NI-CO”, and added that “ the company has trained forces who are accused of torturing people to confess to charges that carry the death penalty, as well as supporting institutions that have failed to investigate the abuse.”

The entire Reprieve report is based on the single case of a death row inmate, Mohammed Ramadan, a former policeman and father of three children, whom the report says was tortured into making a false confession. According to the report’s cover, the inmate is an “Innocent father on Bahrain’s death row”, who “‘Confessed’ under torture” and that a “State-owned Belfast company” was “complicit in abuse cover-up” while the “Northern Irish government” is “turning a blind eye”.

NI-CO is currently conducting the training of the Interior Ministry’s Ombudsman Office at the request of the British Foreign Office. The Office of the Ombudsman is a new institution that has been created in response to Bassiouni Report’s recommendations concerning the control over the performance of the Interior Ministry staff. Britain has pledged to help in training the Ombudsman Office staff to upgrade their efficiency (through transfer of expertise) pertaining to investigations into allegations of torture and ill-treatment.

But Reprieve believes that Bahrain’s Ombudsman Office has refused for more than two years to investigate complaints regarding the torture of Mohamed Ramadan and that “after being caught out for ignoring these torture complaints, the Ombudsman said it would begin an investigation. Instead, it has bullied and intimidated Mr Ramadan’s wife and flouted international minimum standards for torture inquiries at every turn.”

Reprieve’s report, has also levelled accusations at the British Foreign Office. Harriet McCulloch, a Reprieve deputy team director said: “The UK Foreign Office is financing a whitewash of Mohammed Ramadan’s torture and coerced confession, leaving an innocent man languishing on death row and his family afraid to speak out. UK money is complicit in covering up torture in Bahrain. The Foreign Office needs to come clean about what it has paid NI-CO to do with a repressive regime like Bahrain.”

According to Reprieve’s report, NI-CO has worked with the Ombudsman Office for years and was awarded a UK Foreign Office contract worth £900,000, to promote human rights reforms in Bahrain in 2015.

For its part, Invest Ni, which owns NI-CO, has issued a statement, saying that it is aware that NI-CO’s work is part of the British government’s support for the Bahraini Government’s reform program and that it sees it appropriate for NI-CO “to work to support this reform, sharing learnings on how Northern Ireland has dealt with changing attitudes, culture and behaviour”.