The Foreign Secretary attended a groundbreaking ceremony in Bahrain over the weekend to start the construction of a new Royal Navy facility.

Mina Salman Port will play a central role in the Royal Navy’s ability to operate in the region, and reaffirms the UK’s determination to work with Bahrain to maintain security and stability in the Gulf.

This facility will give the UK an enhanced and permanent presence in the region, allowing longer-term deployments in the Gulf.

The Foreign Secretary was joined at the ceremony by Royal Navy personnel, who watched the first spades go into the ground against a backdrop of HMS Bangor, a minehunter, and RFA Cardigan Bay.

Speaking at the ceremony, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said “the beginning of construction work at Mina Salman Port marks a watershed moment in the UK’s commitment to the region. The presence of the Royal Navy in Bahrain is guaranteed into the future, ensuring Britain’s sustained presence east of Suez. The new facility will enable Britain to work with our allies to reinforce stability in the Gulf and beyond.”

Commander Joint Forces Command, General Sir Richard Barrons KCB CBE ADC, said “this is a reflection of the continued cooperation and engagement between the Bahrain Defence Forces and the UK Armed Forces. We welcome the continued support from Bahrain which enables the Royal Navy to operate in the Gulf region.”

The Royal Navy base was first announced late last year, at a time when accusations were being made that the base was a “reward” for Britain’s silence over on-going human rights violations in the Gulf state. Sunday’s announcement has now provoked fresh criticism following a telling report by Amnesty International that highlighted human rights abuses still underway in Bahrain.

The report, released earlier this year, documented several cases of detainees being beaten, sleep deprived, starved, burned with cigarettes, sexually assaulted and electrocuted.

Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei said ”All the British government’s policies show is a commitment to military expansion at the cost of human rights. Bahrain continues to systemically arbitrarily arrest, torture and silence any critic of the government. This new base is totally inappropriate.”

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond responded that “Bahrain is not perfect by any means”, but said to BBC News that the ruling family of Bahrain were taking steps to improve their human rights record.