British naval base in Bahrain faces legal challenge over human rights abuses

Moosa Mohammed, allegedly tortured by Bahrain, is set to seek a judicial review over the decision

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The Government is set to face a major legal challenge over a controversial new Royal Navy base in Bahrain, amid accusations that Britain has “sacrificed” human rights at the “altar” of trade and military deals.

In December, the Foreign Secretary, Phillip Hammond, announced a new naval base in the country, signalling a renewed commitment to Britain’s military role in the Gulf. The move was met by dismay from campaigners who said the base was a “reward” for the UK’s silence on human rights abuses in the country.

Moosa Mohammed, a prominent human rights activist who claims he was tortured by the Bahrain regime, is set to seek a judicial review over the decision.

His case is based on the fact that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted it did not take the human rights situation in Bahrain into account while agreeing the £15m base, which is being funded primarily by the Bahraini royal family.

Mr Mohammed’s lawyers will claim that the MoD should have followed rules which call on ministers and civil servants officials to consider “human rights implications” on security and justice agreements with Britain’s allies overseas.

The legal challenge could prove embarrassing for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which last week refused to list Bahrain as a Country of Concern in its annual Human Rights report, despite concerns from NGOs. Mr Mohammed said: “The British public deserve to know why the UK government is collaborating so closely with Bahrain, a country which has a terrible record on human rights.”

A Government spokesman said: “The UK government is supporting the government of Bahrain in its reform programme, including work to help Bahrain strengthen its human rights and justice sector.

“We welcome the progress Bahrain is making in this area with the support of NGOs and will continue to provide assistance to them. The recent defence agreement is not about the provision of military assistance to Bahrain, and therefore no assessment was required.”