Rights Groups urges UK Prime Minister to raise concerns over human rights violations in Gulf countries including UAE
Rights groups are writing to Prime Minister Theresa May ahead of her visit to Bahrain on Tuesday 6 December urging her to raise human rights as she attends the Gulf Cooperation Council Leaders Summit. The groups warn that claims of reform are disingenuous in light of escalating repression and urge her not relegate human rights to the background.
Campaigners, from groups like the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), claim that all six GCC states, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar are being deceptive in their claims of reform and are increasing repression, aided by the UK Government’s indifference and military backing.
The visit has comes amid the continued detentionof human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who since June 2016 has been held in solitary confinement for criticism of the humanitarian cost of the war in Yemen, which Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are prosecuting.
Speaking to CommonSpace, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy for BIRD, said: “In her last meeting with Bahrain's King in London, Theresa May failed to speak about human rights abuses and spoke instead of reform in Bahrain, which is simply not happening.
“If she again fails to speak out on human rights in the Gulf and continued unrest in Bahrain, then it will seem that the Prime Minister's policies are solely based on financial interests without ethics or morality. Such a policy would be unsustainable and counterproductive and a betrayal of pro-democracy campaigners who languish in prisons for courageously advocating for change.”
Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Reprieve and BIRD, in an open letter to May, said: “The Bahraini authorities’ orchestrated attack on the rights to free expression, assembly and association, has seriously undermined the prospects of a political solution to Bahrain’s domestic unrest.”
“If your government is serious about its commitment to encouraging reform and dialogue, you should use this influence to press the government of Bahrain to put an immediate stop to this repression.”
“If she again fails to speak out on human rights in the Gulf and continued unrest in Bahrain, then it will seem that the Prime Minister's policies are solely based on financial interests without ethics or morality.” Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei
According to Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) since 2015, the UK has sold arms to countries of the GCC to the value of £3.3bn. These include sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE worth £210m, Qatar £138m, Oman £55m, Kuwait £19m, and Bahrain £18m.
The two day GCC summit is likely to discuss whether it should form a tighter economic Gulf union, including a single market, single currency and customs union modelled on the EU. May has mentioned previously that her government should “seize the opportunity to forge a new trade arrangement between the UK and the Gulf”.
This is despite torture, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest and unfair trials being regular in Bahrain. Since June 2016, the government of Bahrain has dissolved the largest political party in the country, stripped the citizenship of the country's most senior Shia cleric, prosecuted human rights activists and prevented them from travel and placed an entire community under constant police blockade.