05 December 2019 – Last week, on 29 November, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) sent letters to both the Vice-Chancellor and President of the Student Union (SU) at the University of Huddersfield urging the institution to abolish a Master’s programme, an MSc in Security Science, reserved for students from Bahrain’s Royal Academy of Policing.
The programme is aimed at specifically training Bahraini police in “how to gather and present evidence at crime scenes,” as well as other subjects including cyber-crime, investigative psychology and criminology.
The letters, which were reported by the Examiner earlier this week, come shortly after the University’s Chancellor, Prince Andrew, was forced to step down from his role after allegations resurfaced regarding his friendship with convicted peadophile Jeffery Epstein.
BIRD reported being “deeply disturbed” by the establishment in 2018 of an MSc in Security Science for Bahrain’s Royal Academy of Policing, stating that the course “appears to be the legacy of Prince Andrew’s tenure.”
The Duke of York’s friendly relationship with Bahrain’s dictators has been under renewed scrutiny since a car-crash interview on BBC’s Newsnight last week, which caused University of Huddersfield students to call for his resignation as their Chancellor. University of Huddersfield students previously called for him to step down in 2018, after the Prince made “insensitive and inflammatory” comments during a visit to Abu Dhabi.
In its letters BIRD raised recent human rights concerns related to Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior, which presides over the Royal Academy of Policing. These included the increased policing of dissent on social media and the killing of a 21-year old protestor who allegedly inhaled tear gas at a protest against the execution of two torture victims in July 2019.
BIRD went on to warn the Vice-Chancellor and SU President that the “MSc programme for Bahrain’s Royal Academy of Policing risks providing violent and abusive security forces with expertise that will likely be utilised in the oppression of civilians in Bahrain.”
Finally, BIRD called on the SU to “press the University of Huddersfield to withdraw” from the partnership with the Bahraini government and urged the Vice-Chancellor to “disassociate themselves from all regimes that display contempt for international human rights.”
Commenting on the MSc, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said: “The University of Huddersfield’s ongoing ties to Bahrain are an unpleasant legacy of Prince Andrew’s tenure as Chancellor. The university continues to offer an exclusive Master’s course to Bahrain’s police risks empowering the government’s campaign to crush dissent. I have urged the Vice Chancellor and the President of the Student’s Union to disassociate from this toxic regime. Failing to do so risks permanently staining the reputation of the university with Bahrain’s human rights abuses”
On the same day, BIRD received a reply from the university’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor. However, it was a copy-paste response to one received last year by Lib-dem peer Lord Scriven, signifying that the concerns raised had simply been dismissed and new evidence of the abusive nature of security forces in Bahrain was ignored.
In response to the reply received, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said: “It is appalling to see the University of Huddersfield responding to my complaint with an identical copy and paste response to the one they sent Lord Scriven last year.
Their continued reliance on outdated information betrays a failure to conduct human rights due diligence or make ongoing assessments of the human rights situation in the country, which has continued to deteriorate. Indeed, since their MSc course began, Bahrain has executed individuals, amid credible allegations of torture at the hands of the very security services the course purports to be training.
Despite students’ emphatic rejection of the University’s ties to Prince Andrew, the administration appears intent on preserving his sordid legacy, by maintaining his lucrative friendship with a vicious dictatorship.”
Also Commenting, Lord Scriven said: “It is clear that the senior management at the University of Huddersfield are happy to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in Bahrain in pursuit of their income stream. I am appalled that links between their former Chancellor and the Bahrain Royals haven’t been questioned and reviewed, particularly after Huddersfield students rightly pressured the University to end its relationship with Prince Andrew. The Student’s Union now needs to put the same pressure on the Vice Chancellor over his refusal to revisit the worrying contract they have with the Bahrain government.”