BRITAIN must stop “lending cover” to human rights abuses in Bahrain, Amnesty International said yesterday as it published a new report on the Gulf kingdom.
It warned of a “disastrous decline” in Bahrain’s human rights situation, saying that families have been targeted by the authorities after their relatives protested peacefully in London.
Amnesty slammed the British government for failing to investigate the reprisal attacks and whitewashing of abuses by the regime. It has written to Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt demanding answers.
The human rights group said Bahrain continues to crush dissent, with a violent crackdown on protests against the government that killed six people — including a child — along with mass arrests, the torture of detainees and the elimination of free expression.
In the last year, at least 169 critics of the Bahraini government or their family members have been detained, tortured, threatened or banned from travelling, according to the report.
The main opposition party has been dissolved, politicians have been jailed and Bahrain’s last independent newspaper has been closed down.
Despite this, the British government’s latest assessment on human rights in Bahrain refers to a “mixed picture,” with praise for the country’s “progress on its reform agenda.”
But Amnesty points to a “disturbing development” after Bahraini authorities targeted the family of prominent government critic Sayed Ahmed Alwadei, who lives in exile in Britain.
Hours after a peaceful protest in London during a visit by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa last year, his wife and young child were arrested in Bahrain, with interrogators making specific reference to his presence at the London demonstration.
Amnesty director Kate Allen said the people of Bahrain felt betrayed by the British government.
She called on the kingdom to allow representatives of the United Nations and human rights organisations into the country.
“There’s been a disastrous decline in human rights in Bahrain over the past year, but you’d never know it from the UK’s rosy pronouncements on Bahrain,” Ms Allen said.
“By accentuating the supposed positives, the UK is lending cover to Bahrain as it pursues a frightening and ever-intensifying crackdown on human rights.”
She said Britain needs to wake up to the reality of what is happening in Bahrain and must go beyond so-called “quiet diplomacy” to speak out against the regime’s human rights abuses.
The Foreign Office had not responded to the Star’s request for comment at the time of going to press.