The Masters course in Security Science, which involves Huddersfield lecturers training Bahraini police officers at the Academy in areas such as crime scene investigation techniques, cyber crime and “investigative psychology”, was launched in 2018 and that year Prince Andrew, then Huddersfield University’s Chancellor, visited Bahrain to meet some of the officers participating in the course and senior Government ministers.
Since the course was launched, the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and the Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) group have made repeated calls for Huddersfield University to drop the course over concerns about the nation’s human rights record and the treatment of political prisoners in Bahrain, which is a constitutional monarchy.
BIRD’s director of advocacy, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, has now written to Huddersfield’s vice-chancellor Professor Bob Cryan with detailed allegations of the torture of 10 prisoners - including people being subjected to severe beatings, sleep deprivation, being threatened with the rape and torture of family members and made to sign pre-prepared confessions - alleged to have taken place at the Royal Academy of Policing between 2016 and 2019. The Embassy of Bahrain in Britain said the allegations “are unconnected with the Huddersfield University Masters program, and are an attempt to undermine important UK-Bahrain policing cooperation”.
Alwadaei said handwritten testimonies of the prisoners had been smuggled out of Bahrain and is now calling for the immediate suspension of the degree course until a full investigation takes place.
“It is scandalous that the University of Huddersfield has reserved an MSc in Security Science exclusively for students at an institution known by Bahraini prisoners as one of Bahrain’s most notorious ‘torture hubs’,” he said.
“The university management have had their heads in the sand about the abusive nature of their business partner; it is time for them to end this toxic relationship or their Master’s certificates will be stained with blood.”
Amnesty International and Yorkshire peer Lord Scriven, a former leader of Sheffield Council who was born in Huddersfield, have backed the calls for the degree program to be suspended.
Oliver Sprague, Amnesty International UK’s Policing Expert, said: “Staff and students will rightly be troubled by these tremendously serious allegations. Huddersfield University should immediately suspend its provision of these courses until there has been a full investigation into the possibility of links between graduates of the course and the torture of prisoners in Bahrain.
“There can of course be a legitimate role for UK universities to teach courses on responsible security techniques, but torture in Bahrain is well-documented and Huddersfield must surely have been aware of the need for scrupulous care in avoiding any facilitation of prisoner abuse.
“In light of these claims, Huddersfield University must be able to show that its Bahraini security science graduates are in no way involved in the ill-treatment of prisoners.”
Lord Scriven said: “Vice Chancellor Bob Cryan has been warned previously about the abusive nature of his business partner and has failed to act; I now expect him to personally take action to end his university’s association with this odious institution.”
Huddersfield University confirmed it had received Alwadaei’s letter. “The letter will now be given full consideration in the coming days and the University will respond to it,” a spokesman said.
The university has refused to confirm how much it is being paid by Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior for running the course on the grounds that the information is “commercially sensitive” but BIRD has said it is likely to be over £1m given there are 25 students on the course for the current academic year, MSc degrees for international students at Huddersfield typically cost £15,000 per year and the university and the Royal Academy of Policing signed a four-year contract.
A spokesman for the Embassy of Bahrain said: “Numerous strong and effective oversight bodies are in place to receive, investigate any complaints of wrongdoing and, where justified by the evidence, to initiate prosecution of any person suspected of misconduct.
“These agencies include the National Institution for Human Rights, the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman, the Prisoners’ and Detainees’ Rights Commission, and the Special Investigations Unit, all of which have a strong and established track record in addressing these issues.
“Any person with a grievance or claim of abuse (including allegations of mistreatment in custody) is fully entitled to present it to such agencies for a full and detailed investigation.
“If these allegations had any substance to them, you can be assured that they would be fully investigated and followed-up by these agencies, and any person found to have engaged in mistreatment or misconduct would be subject to the appropriate disciplinary and/or legal procedures.”
In 2017, a report by the UN Committee Against Torture said it was concerned at “numerous and consistent allegations of widespread torture and ill-treatment” of prisoners in Bahrain and said it was concerned that organizations in the state supposed to investigate complaints were not independent or effective.
The report added: “It is also concerned that their activities have had little or no effect, and that the authorities provided negligible information regarding the outcome of their activities. The Committee is further concerned about the loopholes in the existing complaints mechanisms whereby prison inmates have to submit complaints regarding torture or ill-treatment through prison wardens, the prison director or deputy director, which does not guarantee that the complaints will be submitted to the competent authorities.”
The Embassy spokesman said there is “more to be done” but added the bodies in question “have investigated cases of mistreatment and torture which had led to convictions and further strengthening of safeguards” and helped with ongoing reforms to the criminal justice system.
He added: “Bahrain is absolutely serious about further improving the work of its police, and upholding the highest standards of human rights protection. Part of this the process involves working with leading experts and institutions from around the world, including the United Kingdom.
“Any group genuinely concerned by such issues would surely be supporting the work of the Huddersfield University Masters program in sharing international best practice and expertise in this field, rather than seeking to undermine its work.”
Source: The Yorkshire Post