A number of organisations including the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) continue to highlight the human rights situation in Bahrain.
Reprieve, the human rights organisation, is running a petition calling on the King of Bahrain and the Bahraini government to halt the planned executions of three individuals that it says were convicted unlawfully on “false confessions extracted through torture.” Reprieve, states that “21 people are currently on Bahrain’s death row, many of them political prisoners”. Reprieve also notes that “the UK has spent £5 million on a programme of technical assistance to the Kingdom of Bahrain since 2012,” but that “during this time death sentence have tripled, allegations of torture have been widespread, and unlawful executions have been carried out.”
I recognise the serious concerns about the human rights situation in Bahrain, particularly on the position of opposition and civil liberties groups, the detention of political prisoners and allegations of torture.
The 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) into human rights abuses made no fewer than 26 recommendations. On 9 May 2016, the King of Bahrain announced that these had been “fully implemented”. However, developments such as the suspension of the opposition group Al Wefaq and the detention of Nabeel Rajab, for example, reinforce the view that serious human rights concerns remain. The UN has also expressed concern at reports of excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force, enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has designated Bahrain a human rights priority country and expressed concerns about the issues I just mentioned as well as about freedom of expression and assembly more widely. Human rights should be at the heart of our foreign policy and the Government must ensure that it continues to raise these issues at the highest levels in Bahrain.
I know concerns have been raised about the UK’s provision of technical assistance to Bahraini institutions. I believe the Government must justify why it believes this has been a sensible use of money and publish all its evaluations of those projects. I believe the Government should also urge Bahrain to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture immediate, unrestricted and continued access to the country.
Given that the UK has been working with Bahrain on implementing reforms, the Government should be prepared to recognise where reforms have further to go and pressure Bahrain to ensure that its human rights violations are brought to an end.