Bahrain: UK MPs to Debate Taxpayer Support as Political Prisoners Languish

2022-01-12 - 10:09 م

Bahrain Mirror: British MPs concerned about UK support and funding for the government of Bahrain have secured a parliamentary debate on Thursday over political prisoners in the Gulf kingdom.

The debate comes after revelations that UK taxpayers are funding programs that support Bahrain's interior ministry and other bodies with responsibilities overseeing detainees.

The backbench debate, raised by Scottish National Party MP Brendan O'Hara, will provide scrutiny a decade after Britain began funding Bahrain, and as political prisoners, many imprisoned for their roles in the kingdom's pro-democracy movement, remain behind bars despite crossparty calls for their release.

"For far too long, the United Kingdom has chosen to turn a blind eye to widespread human rights abuses in Bahrain, while at the same time sending millions of pounds of UK taxpayers money to the Gulf state to help it 'reform'," O'Hara said on Tuesday. 

"There is precious little sign of that 'reform' as more than a decade on from the Arab Spring uprising, Bahrain's jails are still full of political prisoners, many of who have been tortured, and some of who are awaiting execution."

The debate also comes after the government disclosed in August, following a freedom of information request filed by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird), that it is funding Bahrain's interior ministry and four oversight bodies that have some responsibility for the treatment of political detainees.

In response to Bird's freedom of information request, the UK government said in August that in addition to Bahrain's interior ministry, the fund supports the ministry's ombudsman, the special investigations unit, the prisoner and detainees rights commission and the national intelligence agency ombudsman.

Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei, director of Bird, said there needs to be much more clarity about the UK's role in funding and supporting "violent institutions in Bahrain who are notorious for criminalizing those who dream of democracy in their country".

Middle East Eye understands that several of the MPs backing the debate were moved to take action after visiting Mushaima outside the Bahraini embassy in London, where he held his protest. 

He told MEE it gave him hope that Singace's fight and the plight of hundreds of other political prisoners would be raised in parliament, and that it was time for the UK government to "stop looking the other way when it comes to human rights abuses committed by its allied nations like Bahrain".

"Those in Bahrain who believe in their principles, such as my father Hassan Mushaima, and Dr. Al-Singace, are paying a high price because they dare to call for democratic change in a repressive state," he said. 

"Although it is touching to see how much people are willing to sacrifice for something that they strongly believe in, it is also heartbreaking to see how Dr. Al-Singace has had to starve himself for more than six months simply to be granted his most basic rights."

Ali Mushaima, the son of former opposition leader Hassan Mushaima, completed a 23-day hunger strike, demanding the release of his father and academic and activist Abduljalil Al-Singace, who has been on his own hunger strike since July.

Arabic Version