UK MPs call for 'reconsideration' of Bahrain ties

UK MPs call for 'reconsideration' of Bahrain ties over rights abuses, on crackdown anniversary
3 min read
19 March, 2021
On the 10th anniversary of Bahrain's crackdown on Arab Spring protests, UK MPs say the British government must pressure Bahrain to stop political detentions and end rights abuses
Repression has soared in Bahrain since the 2011 uprisings were crushed [Getty]
British MPs have renewed calls for the UK government to “reconsider” its relations with Bahrain in order to secure the release of political prisoners, noting that the Gulf country continues to repress dissent and violate human rights.

MPs on Wednesday signed a letter to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, in order to mark the tenth anniversary of the crackdown on Bahrain's Arab Spring protests.

The letter noted that detention and mistreatment of political prisoners in the Gulf monarchy continues. 

Labour MP Zarah Sultana, who composed the letter, wrote, "ahead of the 10th anniversary of the arrest of political leaders and activists in Bahrain for their participation in pro-democracy protests, we, the undersigned, are writing to draw your attention once again to the ongoing suppression of democracy and political opposition in Bahrain."

On March 17, 2011, seven prominent opposition leaders were arrested, including Hassan Mushaima, Abdelwahab Hussain, and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, according to the MPs' letter.

"Bahrain continues to supress any and all political dissent. Nonetheless, the UK has continued to support the Bahraini regime, despite it being listed as one of the UK’s human rights priority countries," the letter said.

The letter also urged the government to follow its mission statement on Bahrain, to “help Bahrain to return to a stable and reformist state with a good human rights record.”

Among the signatories were former UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP Dianne Abbott, and leader of the Liberal Democrat Party Ed Davey.

Read more: A decade after the Arab Spring, Bahrain's allies are still enabling its relentless crackdown

The letter comes at a time when leaked documents have come to light showing that Raab has stated that the UK will pursue trade deals even with countries with poor human rights records.

Raab said he hoped establishing and maintaining trade links with such countries would act as a "positive influence" on their human rights records.

"We don't junk whole relationships because we've got issues – we have a conversation because we want to change the behaviour," Raab said in a phone call, the transcript of which was leaked to UK media.

Last week, the European Union Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority to condemn human rights violations in Bahrain, where the death penalty is retained for a wide range of offences.

The parliament called on Bahrain to quickly halt the imminent execution of 26 death row prisoners and condemned the ongoing use of torture against detainees and the persecution of human rights defenders.

“[Members of the European Parliament] are deeply concerned that ten years after the Bahraini ‘Arab Spring’ uprising, in 2011, the human rights situation in the country continues to worsen,” it said in a statement.

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