Human rights groups criticise charity of UK royal for signing $1m deal to advise on Bahrain homes
Human rights groups have criticised Prince Charles’ architectural charity for signing a £700,000 ($1.07m) deal to advise on the construction of 4,000 homes in Bahrain.
The Prince of Wales' Foundation for Building Community will offer technical and engineering expertise to the project, which could eventually be expanded across Bahrain.
Activists said the partnership sent a message that the British royal family approved of the regime in Bahrain, which has been accused of continued human rights abuses as it attempts to quash pro-democracy protests.
Violent clashes on Bahraini streets since early 2011, including during this year’s Formula One racing event in April, have led to the deaths of 87 people, according to human rights groups, while many more have been jailed for offences such as inciting violence and offending the king.
Human Rights Watch UK director David Mepham said the UK should not engage with the Bahraini regime amid “credible allegations” of torture.
"The UK should be pressing the Bahrainis to investigate those abuses and hold those people to account," he told the Guardian.
Bahraini opposition political group Al-Wefaq Islamic Society also said the deal gave “the green light” to human rights abuses.
However, Citizens for Bahrain praised the government for sealing the deal.
“Bahrain’s leaders should be building homes, providing services, improving education, creating jobs and improving the welfare of all Bahrainis. If they succeed then they deserve credibility and respect,” the group said in a statement.
Anti-monarchy campaigners Republic also used the deal to criticise the Prince.
"Prince Charles should be ashamed,” Republic CEO Graham Smith told the Independent.
“By orchestrating this immoral deal he is giving legitimacy to one of the world’s most repressive regimes. The Bahraini people need solidarity and support – not their own Poundbury."
Poundbury is a development in the south-west county of Dorset, created by the Prince and architect Leon Krier using traditional British building elements.
Prince Charles showed Bahrain's crown prince around the development in 2007.
Last month he also hosted the country's housing minister at Clarence House in London.