Bahrain Mirror: UK Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, said that the UK government monitors events in Bahrain closely.
In a general answer to a question raised to him by MP Tom Brake on whether he has received reports on trends in the prison conditions for the 13 Bahraini opposition leaders and other prisoners in Bahrain, Burt said "where we have concerns on specific issues, including prison conditions, we raise these at an appropriately senior level with the Bahraini authorities," without referring to the hundreds of complaints of ill-treatment and harsh prison conditions the political prisoners live in Bahrain, according to what is documented by international organizations.
"We encourage those with concerns about treatment in detention to report these to the relevant human rights oversight bodies. We continue to encourage the Government of Bahrain to deliver on its international and domestic human rights commitments," Burt further stated.
He also considered that the UK's support to Bahrain's reform program includes strengthening independent oversight bodies such as the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman and the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission.
Commenting on this statement, the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said that high profile opposition and human rights activists as well as other political prisoners in Bahrain have been denied family visitation for over one year, considering that the UK minister gave Bahrain, ,through his statement, a free pass to continue the degrading treatment of detainees.
Answering another question, Burt repeated the same statements and added a whitewashing paragraph to the Ombudsman that was established under UK supervision and support. "Our Embassy in Bahrain has a continuing dialogue with the Government of Bahrain and all Bahraini human rights oversight bodies," he disclosed.
Despite the many reports that stress the non-neutrality of this institution and fears raised by international organization about punishing those who raised complaints to it from prisoners, the minister stated that the Ombudsman was the first organization of its kind in the region and remains unique. He added that the International Ombudsman Institute acknowledged that the Ministry of Interior Ombudsman that it is independent of any public authority, reiterating that the Ombudsman's Office won the EU's Chaillot Prize for the promotion of human rights in the Gulf Cooperation Council region.