Human rights campaigner urges UK foreign secretary to act by his words as controversy and confusion engulf UK policy in the Gulf
FOREIGN SECRETARY Boris Johnson has been asked to defend human rights to secure stability and follow through on his comments about Saudi Arabia by leading imprisoned Bahraini dissident Naji Fateel.
The foreign secretary is due to attend a security conference in the Gulf state today (Friday 9 December) a day after he publicly broke with UK policy on Saudi Arabia, criticising the country for “puppeteering” and instigating proxy wars in the region.
Bahrain and its influential neighbour Saudi Arabia, whom UK Prime minister Theresa May has spent two days courting for arms sales, are states in which repression regularly occurs and whose militaries and proxies are engaged in conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Britain should use its position on the world stage to champion human rights, not sacrifice them for commerce with corrupt countries." Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei
Fateel, who is serving a 30-year sentence for criticising the Bahraini regime’s human rights record, wrote in a letter addressed to Johnson: “I understand that the UK has its strategic and economic interests in the region, however, you may agree with me that reviewing the UK approach in addressing human rights in Bahrain will not only serve the image and credibility of the UK, but will also secure stability, which will better serve the interests of both the UK and Bahrain’s people.”
The human rights defender first came to prominence after he experienced and raised the issue of torture abuses by security forces at the infamous Jau Prison in 2015. This same facility is manned by forces trained and alegedly overseen by Northern Irish police trainers.
Boris Johnson will give the keynote speech at the annual security conference in Manama. The event will be hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a UK-based thinktank that according to Bahrain Watch has received £30m from the Government of Bahrain since 2011, under a secret agreement.
“I understand that the UK has its strategic and economic interests in the region, however, reviewing the UK approach in addressing human rights in Bahrain will better serve the interests of both the UK and Bahrain’s people.” Naji Fateel
Campaigners have asked questions about the transparency of the arrangenment between the thinktank and the UK and Bahraini Governments. IISS is considered a major stakeholder in advising the Bahrani Government on reform.
Speaking to CommonSpace Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy for Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), said: “We welcome Boris Johnson's honest criticism of Saudi Arabia and ask him to be critical in his keynote speech at the Manama Dialogue today.
“Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have shown a complete disregard to human rights, with more death sentences, and more imprisoned activists and torture than at any other time since the Arab Spring. Britain should use its position on the world stage to champion human rights, not sacrifice them for commerce with corrupt countries.”
Alwadaei added: “Boris Johnson should not repeat Theresa May's failure to raise human rights in Bahrain. There are no Bahraini independent civil society representatives in the dialogue, and in fact people who should be there like Nabeel Rajab languish behind bars instead. Without these voices, this is not a dialogue, but a monologue."
IISS could not be reached for comment, however, a spokesperson from the foreign and commonwealth office (FCO) reiterated the UK Government’s support for “trading and strategic allies in the region”.
Picture courtesy of Aljazeera English
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