Yorkshire university's links to alleged 'torture hub' in Bahrain highlighted in parliamentary report

A Yorkshire university’s links to an institution in Bahrain accused of human rights abuse has been highlighted after an 11-year-old boy who spoke out to British politicians about his father awaiting execution featured in a parliamentary report.

Concerns have been raised about police brutality in Bahrain. This picture shows an anti-Government protesters being detained in 2012. (AP Photo / Hasan Jamali)

Ahmed Ramadhan appeared on a Zoom screen to say his father was on death row in the tiny Gulf state “for a crime he didn’t commit”.

The youngster’s plea was included in a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy and Human Rights in the Gulf, which says UK taxpayer-funded human rights watchdogs in Bahrain covered up allegations of torture that led to the conviction of Mohammed Ramadhan.

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Earlier this year 40 cross-party MPs and peers urged the University of Huddersfield to close a masters course it runs at the Royal Academy of Policing in Bahrain following multiple claims that political dissidents were being tortured in the same building.

They wrote to vice-chancellor Bob Cryan, saying the university was at risk “of indirect implication in human rights abuse” by running an MSc course in security science for officers of the academy.

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In a foreword to the parliamentary report, Brendan O’Hara MP and Lord Scriven said: “Having met personally with victims such as Ahmed Ramadhan, the 11-year-old son of a Bahraini death row inmate, it is appalling to see efforts to put an end to violations obstructed by the UK government time and again.

“Ahmed’s father Mohammed could now be executed at any moment with little warning given to his wife and three children, despite the United Nations (UN) calling for his immediate release and compensation”.

In his address to MPs, Ahmed said: “The last time my dad picked me up from school, I was only four years old. My brother and sister were too young to remember.

“I can only see my father through a glass window at the prison. Because of coronavirus I haven’t been allowed to visit him for a year.”

The report said the investigation by the UK-funded Special Investigations Unit into the case was criticised by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims for being “critically flawed” and failing to meet “the minimum professional standards and minimum international legal standards”.

A spokesman for University of Huddersfield said: “The delivery of this course is in line with the mission advocated by the UK government.”

He went on to quote James Cleverley, Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, saying last year that Bahrain was “taking steps in the right direction to improve its human rights record” but this was “a work in progress” which needed “our support”.

The university said the masters course was intended to help equip police in Bahrain with “modern policing practices and methods”.

Dozens of academics from across the world are calling on the University of Huddersfield to suspend a controversial masters degree programme it runs with Bahrain’s Royal Academy of Policing over allegations that widespread torture of political prisoners had been taking place there.

The Masters course in Security Science, which involves Huddersfield lecturers training Bahrani police officers, has been running since 2018 but has been dogged by claims the academy has been used as a “torture hub”.

Two professors from the University of Leeds and one from the University of Bradford are among the signatories.