Bahrain monarchy violates human rights, how about Britain?


This video is called Bahrain police shooting at independent cameraman filming and reporting.

From Middle East Monitor:

Bahraini exiles test Britain’s policy on statelessness

Alastair Sloan

Monday, 09 February 2015 12:26

The Al-Khalifa monarchy in Bahrain recently stripped over 70 exiled activists of their citizenship, eight of whom live in Britain. In 2012, they did something similar, stripping 31 human rights and pro-democracy activists of Bahraini citizenship, 11 of them living in the UK. These new exiles are testing Britain’s policy on statelessness.

Bahrain’s move is particularly ironic because much of its state security apparatus is made up of mercenary enforcers and interrogators from Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and Jordan. All have been given Bahraini citizenship, housing and salaries by the regime in return for their role in the torture, humiliation and shooting of peaceful pro-democracy protesters.

The Al-Khalifas use citizenship as a weapon. It is offered to those who take part in callous oppression, but remove it from citizens who call for democracy.

This latest move was choreographed carefully to coincide with the confiscation of passports from preachers and fighters associated with ISIS. Thus the authorities have conflated the two movements in a clumsy smear.

The British charity Asylum Aid has been conducting wide-ranging research into the negative impacts of statelessness, interviewing stateless persons in Britain who have been destitute for months. They have been detained by the UK immigration authorities despite evidence that they have no prospect of returning to their home country, or that they have been separated for years from their families overseas. Some have been forced to sleep on the streets. Many have seen their accommodation and support cancelled repeatedly and then reinstated. In the absence of a dedicated and accessible procedure to identify people who are stateless, they have been left in a legal limbo for years.

In a rare moment of progressive policy making, Britain has taken steps recently to address the problem of statelessness. Across the European Union, approximately 600,000 quasi-citizens are estimated to be stateless. The UK is so far the only EU member to implement substantive measures to assimilate stateless refugees, implementing a specialised asylum procedure from April 2013. Thousands of refugees are currently applying through the official mechanism, with immigration officials deciding each case carefully; it is not a straightforward process.

The British authorities must act to treat the Bahraini exiles stripped of their citizenship on the same basis as other refugees. However, as the repression in Bahrain grows worse, it is becoming increasingly clear that the British government is sticking to its commitment to support the Al-Khalifa regime. As I have reported previously elsewhere, Britain has been accused of harassing, rather than helping, such exiles, often in collusion with the Bahraini government.

In January, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond praised improvements in Bahrain’s human rights record, shortly before the Gulf state jailed its most prominent human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, for six months. His “crime” was to send an “insulting tweet”. He is currently on bail pending an appeal scheduled for later this week. In July 2014, the Guardian revealed that Hammond had sat next to the Earl of Clanwilliam, a lobbyist for the Bahraini government, at a fundraising dinner for the Conservative Party.

The parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee also lamented the government’s decision not to “bite the bullet” – its own words – by designating Bahrain as a human rights “country of concern” for 2014. “We see little or no evidence that Bahrain has made enough progress in implementing political reform and safeguarding human rights,” the committee judged. Civil society organisations described the British government’s reluctance as a whitewash.

The FCO response was short, disdainful and factually inaccurate. “On the human rights front Bahrain is by no means perfect,” it insisted, “but it is a country that is making progress and its leadership has shown a willingness to engage with the human rights challenges that it faces.”

Research by Bahrain Watch, an NGO which has been tracking progress on the Al-Khalifa government’s alleged reforms, shows that if British officials believe Bahrain to be “making progress”, they are wilfully and obstinately ignorant.

Of the 25 recommendations made to improve human rights in Bahrain after the 2011 uprising, 11 have been violated openly, six have seen no action at all, five have had no details about their progress released by the government, and three have been implemented “partially”. Not a single reform is judged to have been implemented in full.

The leader of the main opposition Al-Wefaq Party, Ali Salman, was arrested recently on what are claimed to be trumped-up charges. He was also slapped with a travel ban just as he was about to embark on “a major European tour, meeting officials, think tanks, civil society leaders, academics and media professionals.”

Despite this, Britain announced recently a significant expansion to its military assets in Manama harbour, with plans for a full-scale naval base. The Royal Navy has deployed small minesweepers out of Bahrain for some years, but when larger vessels visit the port the crews sleep on board; there are limited facilities for such ships. With a naval base, British warships will be able to deploy regularly from Bahrain. The expansion of the base will resume a long term British military presence in the area and mark the end of a 40-year Middle East policy by the government. Controversially, the Bahrain government will foot the bill for building the Royal Navy facilities, effectively buying Britain’s silence over its ongoing human rights abuses.

Britain has a patchy record on human rights, but addressing statelessness has been a more positive example of what can be done. In applying this new policy rigorously and fairly, they must include Bahraini exiles, as they would any other refugee.

UN rights experts urge Bahrain to release arrested opposition leader: here.

A newly launched Arab news channel has been suspended in Bahrain after it aired an interview with a Shia opposition leader: here.

7 thoughts on “Bahrain monarchy violates human rights, how about Britain?

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