THE government was accused yesterday of deliberately sanitising Bahrain’s human rights abuses.
In a Commons debate Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter said: “I would like this debate to shine a light onto the continuing human rights abuses in Bahrain, specifically to gainsay their whitewashing by the regime, its paid apologists … and indeed its political supporters here, but specifically also to question the UK government’s role deliberately or otherwise in sanitising the regime’s behaviour.”
The UK government, he said, had strong military defence and trade co-operation with the Gulf kingdom and had spent more than £5 million since 2012 on a package of technical assistance “specifically claiming to improve Bahrain’s poor human rights record.”
He said: “However, the evidence suggests the UK reform efforts in Bahrain spanning six years and costing millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money have failed.”
Mr Slaughter claimed there was reluctance by government to issue strong criticism of Bahrain’s rights record, adding it was leading to “turning a blind eye to what are obvious abuses.”
Tory Bob Stewart, vice-chair of the UK-Bahrain all-party parliamentary group said Bahrain, a friend and ally, was now a major target for Iranian subversion.
He said: “In a region where human rights are often hugely ignored, I feel that Bahrain is trying its best to be as good as anywhere.”
Middle East minister Alistair Burt said: “Bahrain remains an important partner, but we do not ignore the voices we hear about other things.
“As a long-standing friend we both offer support and speak frankly about our concerns. We’ll continue to do so.”
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