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Index on Censorship: UK Foreign Office Report Heaps Praise on Bahrain

2017-07-24 - 5:33 am

Bahrain Mirror: Index on Censorship criticized in a statement issued on its website the annual 2016 report on Human Rights issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Thursday July 20, 2017.

Index on Censorship said it "welcomes UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson's interest in human rights. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office's 2016 Annual Human Rights Report, released on Thursday 20 July, highlights the UK's work to promote human rights around the world and sets out a list of 30 "Human Rights Priority Countries", including Bahrain, Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia."

"Index agrees wholeheartedly and acknowledges that the report features many valiant efforts, including, for the first time, a section dedicated to modern slavery - a top priority for the UK government," the statement added.

However, Index also noted that "Johnson offers a watered-down endorsement of human rights and his department's understanding of advocacy is seriously flawed."

Moreover, Index's report noted some points in the UK Foreign report, "Compared with the region, Bahrain remains progressive in women's rights, political representation, labour rights, religious tolerance and institutional accountability."

"Firstly, this is a faulty comparison. Looking at the region as a whole serves only to make Bahrain look better than it actually is. Bahrain may have 15% representation of women in parliament, as the report highlights, but this cannot be described as progressive. As of 2014, the government of Saudi Arabia, not known for its feminism, was made up of 19.9% women," it added.

"In April 2016, a royal decree that increased the rights of women in Bahrain only passed through parliament scrutiny on a technicality. In March of that year, Bahrain detained human rights activist and blogger Zainab al-Khawaja along with her one-year-old son. She was released in May but fled the country out of fear of re-arrest," Index on Censorship further added in its statement.

"While the report does go on to criticise the dissolving of the country's main Shia opposition party, Al Wefaq, it remains a mystery why the report would first highlight political representation and religious tolerance as positives in Bahrain. The country certainly does not have enough institutional accountability, and this is not something it should be commended on," the statement went on to say.

Index also said that the sheer scale of Nabeel Rajab's case is not accounted for.

On 3 February a coalition of 21 groups and individuals, including Index on Censorship, urged Johnson to call for Rajab's release. In the time since, the US state department has called for Rajab's release and condemned his sentencing. The UK government so far has only "voiced its concern" in the weakest possible terms, and as yet has not acknowledged Rajab's sentencing.

When Theresa May became prime minister of the UK, Bahrain was one of the first countries she visited. As new documents reveal, UK contractors visited the country 28 times in 12 months amid Bahrain's ongoing human rights crackdown. In all, "UK government contractors have spent more than 650 days in Bahrain training prison guards, including officers at the notorious Jau prison where death-row inmates are held and allegedly tortured," the Middle East Eye reported earlier this month.

Index on Censorship also indicated that "the UK government appears to be in no position to heap praise on Bahrain for strengthening the rule of law, justice reform, its independent human rights institutions, prisoners' rights and improvements at Jau."

Index also believed that many more issues in the Annual Human Rights Report must be scrutinized when MPs return in September.

Arabic Version



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