Campaigners warn aid money also funding ‘security’ in despotic regimes
A BILLION-POUND foreign aid scheme that has been suspended over claims that it was bankrolling extremist groups in Syria should be completely shut down, campaigners said yesterday.
The British government suspended the scheme after a BBC Panorama investigation found that taxpayers’ cash had been diverted into the hands of terrorist groups.
However Global Justice Now warned that the revelation could be “the tip of the iceberg” with British money from the fund also being funnelled into dodgy projects in 70 other countries.
A report by the campaign group, published yesterday, claims that the secretive Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF), which financed the project in Syria, also supports police and military units with poor human rights records.
This includes an alleged £3.5 million to teach police in the authoritarian Gulf state of Bahrain how to “command and control” demonstrators, including the use of water cannon and dogs.
Aisha Dodwell of Global Justice Now said: “It is shocking that the British government is funding security forces across the world, including in some of the most tyrannical regimes.
“When you add in that some of these funds come from the aid budget, it just gets more scandalous.
“Already in its short life the CSSF has been involved in a number of scandals.
“We believe it is not fit for purpose and should be closed down. Aid money must be spent on poverty alleviation and the UK should be standing against human rights abuses, not enabling them.”
The BBC Panorama programme Jihadis You Pay For, which was aired last night, showed that officers from the Free Syrian Police (FSP) — the civilian police force backed by Britain — have been working with courts accused of torture and summary executions.
It found documents suggesting police officers in Aleppo province were forced to hand over funds to extremist group Nour al-Din al-Zinki and evidence that al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra had hand-picked police officers for two stations in Idlib.
When Adam Smith International — the British company that runs the project — visited one police station, supposedly the base for 57 police officers, they could not find a single officer.
Labour’s shadow secretary of state for international development Kate Osamor shared Global Justice Now’s concerns, saying: “This investigation is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg: the government must now open up its books so the public can understand the true extent of the problem.”