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Amnesty slams US & UK for ‘emboldening’ Bahrain amid ‘disastrous decline in human rights’

Bahrain has cracked down on government critics over the past year, torturing, beating, and sexually assaulting at least 169 people, Amnesty International said, accusing the UK and US of turning a blind eye to “horrific abuses.”

Amnesty said in a report entitled ‘No one can protect you: Bahrain’s year of crushing dissent’ that it had documented how the government arrested, tortured, threatened, or banned from travel nearly 170 activists, opponents, and their relatives from June 2016 to June 2017.

Bahrain has repeatedly refuted allegations of systematic rights abuses. 

“We have heard horrific allegations of torture in Bahrain,” Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Philip Luther, countered in a statement. He noted that all of the allegations should be “promptly and effectively” investigated, while those behind the abuses “brought to justice.”

US, UK prefer to keep silent over Bahrain abuses

The report accused “most governments,” notably Washington and London, of keeping silent over the human rights abuses in Bahrain, where the US Fifth Fleet is based and where Britain’s Royal Navy has a major facility.

“The failure of the UK, USA and other countries that have leverage over Bahrain to speak out in the face of the disastrous decline in human rights in the country over the past year has effectively emboldened the government to intensify its endeavor to silence the few remaining voices of dissent,” Luther noted.

The US publicly criticized Bahrain during the Obama administration, noting in September 2016 that sales to Bahrain of fighter jets would depend on “progress on human rights.” In March 2017, US President Donald Trump lifted the conditions on the sale of jets later telling Bahrain’s King Hamad “there won’t be strain with this administration.”

Amnesty said that the UK, a key strategic ally of Bahrain’s, chose to downplay the “severity of the situation in the country,” with the UK’s recent human rights country assessment on Bahrain referring to a “mixed picture,” praising Bahrain’s “progress on its reform agenda.”

“By accentuating the supposed positives, the UK is lending cover to Bahrain as it pursues a frightening and ever-intensifying crackdown on human rights,” Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s director, said in a statement.

“The political stance of London and Washington has direct impact on the policies of the regime,” Saeed Al-Shehabi of the Bahrain Freedom Movement told RT.

“The regime knows that without their support it cannot survive. Without the support of the British and the Americans and the Saudis the regime would have collapsed, so I think a strong stance from Washington and London would definitely lead to improvement in human rights situation and probably a political transformation towards democracy. But they don’t want that,” he added.

“What the regime of Bahrain is doing is that it is persecuting the people.”

The 43-page paper by Amnesty International said that at least six people were killed, one child among them, in the crackdowns over the past year. “They took away my humanity,” Human rights defender Ebtisam al-Saegh told the rights group. The activist claimed she was blindfolded, sexually assaulted, beaten, and kept standing for most of the seven hours she was being interrogated by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

The testimonies also featured a statement from prominent human rights advocate Nabeel Rajaab, whose fate has been closely followed by RT. The man is behind bars as a prisoner of conscience after being sentenced to two years in jail for giving interviews. He faces a further 15 years in jail for tweets, considered offensive to the Bahraini government.

The UK is building a naval base in Bahrain, and has maintained arms export sales worth £45million ($59 million) since 2011, the Guardian reported.

In March, Amnesty International urged Trump to cancel impending weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain – a key Washington ally and home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet – since this could put civilians in even greater danger and implicate the US in war crimes. 

The Trump administration notified Congress that it intends to waive human rights conditions placed on the sale of Lockheed Martin fighter jets to Bahrain by the previous administration, US media reported. According to the source, the sale includes 19 Lockheed Martin F-16 military aircraft, along with 23 engines, as well as radars and other avionics, air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance, and related equipment. The anticipated price of the deal is $4.8 billion. The aircraft manufacturer has so far not released a comment on the sale, nor has the State Department.