Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The British Ambassador to Bahrain, Roddy Drummond, put out a tweet in which he expressed how pleased he was for visiting Jaw Prison on May 3, 2021 with other ambassadors.
Drummond said in a tweet that they "were shown a well-run facility, with good medical provision and measures against Covid, with vaccinations offered to all prisoners. I welcome this initiative by the authorities to be more transparent, and I welcome their engagement on difficult issues raised in the media."
"I support Bahrain's intent to continue to reform its judicial and prison system, including more use of alternative sentences," he added.
Drummond's tweet prompted a number of responses, most prominent of which was Lord Paul Scriven's tweet that read: "UK Ambassador doing more PR for Bahrain's dictators. He ignored 2 letters from me on disappearance of 60+ inmates from this prison. He refused to speak w/ their families.
"Last year he toured Priti Patel around a known torture hub. Is Roddy hoping for a job after retirement?," Scriven asked sarcastically.
For his part, former Bahraini MP (Al-Wefaq Society), Ali Alaswad retweeted Drummond, commenting: "The motives behind organizing this dotted visit are known, and it is not expected from the ambassador of [UK Government] to accept such plays from authorities known for lying and violations against prisoners of conscience, explain dear RoddyDrummond?"
Alaswad went on to say that "this procedure calls for accountability from the British House of Commons and knowing the motives for participating in the public relations campaign while the violations in Jaw Prison are taking place from behind the curtain," stressing that the UK government should fix this, not support them.
Among the main reactions to Drummond's tweet was also that of Secretary General of National Democratic Action Society (Waad), Ibrahim Sharif, who addressed a series of questions to Drummond, asking him whether he had met prisoners of conscience or their families, whether he had looked into recent reports of torture, and whether he urged his friends (i.e. the Bahraini authorities) to allow visits of the United Nations special rapporteurs on torture, concluding by asking whether he expected to be rewarded as former Ambassador Lindsay. "There is a thick line between whitewashing and fact finding," he highlighted.
As for researcher Jane Kinninmont from Chatham House, she said: "It is good for Bahrain's prisons to be in the spotlight, but an organised visit for ambassadors is no substitute for regular inspections by internationally recognised NGOs and UN experts. Diplomats need to be mindful of a long record of torture & coverups here."
She followed up her tweet by saying that the "ICRC has visited Jau prison in the past and emphasised need for regular visits and private, confidential talks with prisoners," adding that the Bahrain Human Rights Society had called earlier this year for regular prison visits.
Also, Abdul-Ghani Al-Khanjar responded, saying that it "is a false testimony by the British ambassador, aimed at misleading public opinion and covering up the violations in Bahrain's prisons," describing the issue as "whitewashing violations."
"The question is what will the reward be," he added.
Also among the responses was that of Bahrain Forum for Human Rights Chairman, Baqer Darwish, who asked in his tweet why the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture has not been allowed to visit prisons in Bahrain.
"Have you met the detainees who were severely beaten on April 17? Nobody believes your hints about prisons being free of violations except government newspapers," Darwish stressed.
"We still remember statements of former ambassador Iain Lindsay, which reminded us of British colonialism. After the end of his diplomatic tenure, he became advisor to the Bahrain Economic Development Board; are you promised a high position as well in return for these statements?," he further stated.
For his part, former Bahraini MP Jalal Fairooz addressed a number of questions to Drummond: "1.Did you care to check what Amnesty Intl & prominent Intl human rights organizations reported on Jau prison?! 2. Did you care to check ward 2 building 13?! 3. Did you ask to speak to the prisoners of conscience?! What will you answer the families of the tortured & beaten inmates of Jau prison??!!"
Amnesty International's Kristyan Benedict also stated that "a major COVID-19 outbreak at Jaw prison in recent weeks is a stark illustration of Bahraini authorities' failure to respect minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners and to ensure prisoners' rights to health".