Britain ‘cheerleader’ for Bahrain’s ‘woefully inadequate’ human rights reforms – Amnesty

Amnesty International has condemned the British government for attempting to whitewash human rights abuses in Bahrain by “cheerleading” the country’s “woefully inadequate reforms.”

Two UK-supported Bahraini institutions created in the wake of the Gulf kingdom’s brutal crackdown on protests in 2012 are widely seen as flawed and as a “PR exercise.”

Amnesty’s report, based on 90 interviews with victims of human rights violations, their families and lawyers, accuses the UK government of being “utterly disingenuous” in pretending that substantial human rights reform has been delivered in Bahrain.

The ombudsman of the Ministry of Interior and the Special Investigations Unit within the Public Prosecution Office both receive training and capacity-building support from the UK.

While Amnesty acknowledges that the ombudsman’s office has been generally effective in referring complaints of torture and other serious human rights abuses to the Special Investigations Unit, it notes some serious failings.

The office failed to take fast action to protect detainees from torture or to investigate allegations.

In the case of Hussain Jawad, a human rights activist, Amnesty says the ombudsman failed to carry out a prompt visit to check the conditions of his detention and ensure he wasn’t at risk of torture.

He later said he was blindfolded, beaten with his hands cuffed behind his back, and threatened with sexual abuse in order to extract a ‘confession,’” the report states.

Amnesty’s Ariel Plotkin told RT: “What we need is for Bahrain to prove all the promises that it has made in 2011, to bring reform and to bring accountability for past human rights abuses, and what Amnesty has found is that the vast majority of victims still have not received justice and this is five years on, and despite the creation of these two human rights institutions [which] have just not done enough.

At the moment, the UK government is telling half-truths about the success of these institutions to the world. They are publicly portraying them in a way that does not reflect the true reality and work of these institutions, as we’ve seen.”

Amnesty International’s head of policy and government affairs, Allan Hogarth, said in a statement: “Five years after Bahrain’s shocking crackdown on protesters its peaceful human rights activists are still being jailed after unfair trials, yet to listen to UK ministers one would think the country had long ago turned a corner and put these human rights abuses behind it.

Instead of acting as over-excited cheerleaders for Bahrain’s woefully inadequate reforms, UK ministers ought to be confronting the awkward reality that these UK-backed institutions are seriously flawed and widely seen as a PR tool of the Bahraini authorities,” he added.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "It is not good enough to merely criticize other countries from the sidelines. Only by working with Bahrain are we able to bring about the changes we would like to see in the country.

"The UK is working closely with the Government of Bahrain to provide extensive reform assistance focused on strengthening human rights and the rule of law. While it will take time to see the full results of much of this work, the UK is having a positive and direct impact on areas of concern.”