Bahrain Mirror: Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Human Rights Watch and Reprieve criticized the UK Foreign Office's 2021 Human Rights and Democracy Report, issued on December 9, 2022, and confirmed that it is fraught with inaccuracies that whitewash Bahrain's appalling human rights record and risk enabling abusers. The organizations asked in a letter sent to James Cleverly, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Affairs, to "issue a correction of the report that provides an accurate representation of human rights concerns in Bahrain."
"We are very troubled that the report misrepresents the grave reality of human rights in Bahrain, and amounts to misinformation that could be used by the Government of Bahrain as propaganda. We fear that should you fail to correct its misleading content; the report will serve to embolden perpetrators of abuse in Bahrain," they stated.
"We are further concerned about the support provided by the UK government to bodies involved in human rights violations in Bahrain and/or covering them up via the Gulf Strategy Fund (GSF), including the Ministry of Interior and its Ombudsman office, the Prisoner and Detainees Rights Commission, the Special Investigations Unit, and the National Intelligence Agency Ombudsman."
They reminded that "The UK government has repeatedly refused to provide adequate information about the support it is providing in Bahrain," indicating that "The findings of human rights organizations directly contradict your report's assessment of human rights in Bahrain. For example, in their World Report, Human Rights Watch states that there was "continuing heavy repression" in Bahrain in 2021.
Human Rights Watch and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) found that the "Restorative Justice Law for children" which the Bahraini government praises "specifically allows for children to be detained for participating in unlicensed public gatherings, putting them at risk of detention "merely for exercising their right to peaceful assembly," whilst failing to guarantee key due process rights since "the law does not prohibit questioning or interrogating children without the presence of a lawyer or their parents."
Human Rights Watch and BIRD reported that 13 children in Bahrain were beaten and "threatened with rape and electric shocks." These abuses were facilitated by bodies that benefit from UK Government funding through the GSF.
They also reminded the British MP with copies of correspondences they sent to him in 2021 in which they called upon him to correct the record regarding another "erroneous statement" he made about children's cases.
They also noted with deep regret that the report gives unqualified praise to alternative sentencing in Bahrain, although the use of this legislation has been discriminatory as it does not benefit political prisoners.
They addressed the MP saying: "It is concerning that your report provides misleading information on the case of political opposition leader Hasan Mushaima, stating that he was "offered an alternative sentence in September 2021 but chose to decline," whilst failing to mention that this offer was made conditionally on the provision that Mushaima not speak publicly after his release, should he accept, in what would be a blatant violation of his right to freedom of expression."
"Your report's depiction of the 17 April 2021 attack on political prisoners in Jaw Prison is also misleading, and once again omits information regarding serious human rights violations that have been repeatedly brought to the UK government's attention."
They also criticized the report's failure to mention denial of medical care and preventable deaths of political prisoners, by stating that "national human rights oversight bodies are conducting investigations into human rights complaints and monitoring detainee access to medical facilities, but failing to mention the mistreatment of political prisoners and 3 detainee deaths in 2021."
Indeed, the report makes no direct mention of political prisoners, whose mistreatment and deprivation of liberty remain a primary human rights concern, reiterating what the US State Department mentioned in its 2021 report about the death of 3 prisoners in custody in Bahrain, two of whom were political prisoners; Abbas Mallallah and Husain Barakat.
The report raises no concerns over human rights violations against death row inmates in Bahrain and fails to call for these individuals' sentences to be quashed and for them to be released. It provides a one-sided representation of religious freedom in Bahrain and fails to include any information about religious discrimination against the Shi'a Muslim majority in the country.
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Human Rights Watch and Reprieve asked
the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Affairs to issue a correction to the report so that it provides an accurate representation of human rights concerns in Bahrain, and to ensure that future reporting does not provide an incorrect and misleading picture of the human rights situation in Bahrain.
They also called on the UK to freeze all assistance to Bahrain until independent international experts verify these bodies are no longer enabling abuses.