12 Sep 2012

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee will hold an inquiry into the human rights abuses perpetrated by Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Labour MP and committee member Ann Clwyd has announced.

In a briefing on Bahrain organised by Index on Censorship, Clwyd said: "Eric [Lord Avebury, joint vice-chair of the Parliamentary Group on Human Rights] and I have raised the question of Bahrain over and over again in the House of Lords, House of Commons and obviously we're not satisfied with the answer we've had."

During the same briefing, activist and acting president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BHCR) Maryam Al-Khawaja called on the UK to discuss diplomatic and economic sanctions against Bahrain and to end the sale of arms.

She told MPs that the Bahrain government, which has been clamping down on pro-democracy protests since February 2011, has only become "emboldened by inaction from the international community".

"There needs to be real pressure on the Bahrainis from allies like UK to allow UN special rapporteurs into the country, which they have not been doing," she added.

Al-Khawaja explained that Bahrain has thus far granted access to only one rapporteur, torture expert Juan Méndez, and even his permission was subsequently revoked.

The speaker continued by highlighting the fact that Bahrain has closed its borders and made it impossible for journalists and NGOs to gather information in the country. She also pointed out the importance of a discussion on diplomatic and economic sanctions on Bahrain.

"I think it's about time [to see a discussion]," she said, welcoming Denmark's proposal to begin discussions regarding sanctions against Bahrain in the international community.

"Unlike Russia, the UK does speak about human rights and democracy and the need to uphold those things, and yet they continue to support a regime like Bahrain who continues to commit human rights violations almost on a daily basis.

"The majority of human rights violations are still on-going. The Bahraini regime has reached a point where they believe they have acquired international immunity."

"A year after the BICI report, the promises of reform have turned out to be empty," Sara Yasin, Bahrain Programme Manager for Index on Censorship, said. "The British government has a lot of influence in Bahrain, but unfortunately a blind eye has been turned to human rights violations due to business interests, this must stop."

Lord Avebury talked about the controversial presence of Prince Nasser, leader of Bahrain's Olympic delegation, in the UK during the London 2012 Games.

Nasser is alleged to have personally tortured Bahraini athletes who protested against the regime

"We wrote a letter to the Foreign Office asking for him to be excluded as a person whose presence in the UK is non-conducive to the public good and we sent testimonies from two persons who said to have been tortured by Prince Nasser and this was rejected by the Foreign Office," he said.

www.ibtimes.co.uk