Bahrain evades responsibility hiding behind UK, Saudi Arabia

Alwaght- In the shadow of the Al Khalifa monarchy, the rights of tens of thousands of Bahraini citizens continue to be violated with cover-up from the international community legitimizing the crackdown against the voices of freedom. 

The Bahraini authorities have detained thousands of Bahrainis in recent years with hundreds of political prisoners lying in government jails. In a bid to muffle the voices calling for justice and rallies, the regime continues to detain political and religious figures in the kingdom, a blatant violation of freedom of speech.

The recent case of Sheikh Hasan Issa, a former MP of al-Wefaq opposition bloc who was detained by police, has impelled Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to say that she is closely following his imprisonment and call on Manama to release all prisoners who were arrested for their political activism.

Earlier this year Amnesty International published a report in which it concluded that it “monitored human rights developments in Bahrain for many years but never more closely than in the past four years, which have seen widespread violations by government security forces. These have included torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, unfair trials, the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience and unlawful killings, with those responsible all too frequently escaping accountability.”

Since 2011 when a wave of protests broke out demanding freedom, equality, and an end to human rights violations in the kingdom the Manama regime has been implementing a no-mercy policy in dealing with dissidents.

Since the uprising was initiated, more than 100 protesters have been killed at the hands of Saudi-backed security forces, 500 individuals held prisoners of conscience, and over 3,000 others are in arbitrary detention, according to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

Torture is one of the most controversial issues regarding Bahrain’s prisons. A recent report showed that at least 64 % of detainees have been tortured and a few have even died as a result.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch published newly-documented accounts of torture during interrogation. The report related the experiences of 10 detainees who said they have been mistreated at the hands of Bahraini official personnel.


The fact that Bahrain, Britain’s close ally, has been persecuting detainees damages the image that the UK has been trying to establish, that the Persian Gulf state reformed its policies and is holding accountability.

The latest HRW report, one of many, corroborated opposition accusations that the UK is overlooking these rights abuses. Britain has been defending Manama claiming it has funded reforms and accountability mechanisms. Yet, these so-called reforms are just for show.

Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “The claims of Bahrain and its allies that authorities have ended torture in detention are simply not credible. All the available evidence supports the conclusion that these new institutions have not effectively tackled what the Bici report described as a ‘culture of impunity’ among security forces.”

This comes just three weeks after the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, inaugurated a new Royal Navy facility, the first permanent British military base in the region in four decades as the two countries share strong trade and investment ties.

Yet, not only is the UK endorsing the Al Khalifa regime politically but is also cooperating with it on the “security” and “intelligence” levels.

Saudi Arabia

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has been more forward about the Bahrain predicament. Its forces have openly entered Bahrain to assist its Persian Gulf ally in suppressing pro-democracy movements.

Riyadh’s double standards, nonetheless, are obvious. In Syria, it is funding terrorist groups who began the war under the banner of democracy as they sought to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. In Bahrain, Saudi Arabia has taken upon itself the task of stifling the calls for democracy.

The proximity of Bahrain to Saudi Arabia is a source of concern for Riyadh which also violates human rights within its borders.

A 2015 Human Rights Watch report summarized the human rights situation in the kingdom stating: “Saudi Arabia continued in 2014 to try, convict, and imprison political dissidents and human rights activists solely on account of their peaceful activities. Systematic discrimination against women and religious minorities continued. Authorities failed to enact systematic measures to protect the rights of 9 million foreign workers. As in past years, authorities subjected hundreds of people to unfair trials and arbitrary detention. New anti-terrorism regulations that took effect in 2014 can be used to criminalize almost any form of peaceful criticism of the authorities as terrorism.”

This is why a successful revolution in Bahrain would inspire one in Saudi Arabia, where the Wahhabi rule cannot afford to lose grip on power.

Yet, as long as Manama continues to hide behind international and regional powers such as the UK and Saudi Arabia, and as long as these countries- in turn- prioritize their interests over human rights causes, Bahrain will continue its crackdown on protesters while evading culpability.

By Alwaght