Bahraini Political Prisoners

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:14 pm on 13th January 2022.

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Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Independent, Rutherglen and Hamilton West 2:14 pm, 13th January 2022

No.

Like many colleagues, I visited Ali Mushaima during his hunger strike in front of the Bahraini embassy to highlight the plight of prisoners of conscience such as his father Hassan and Abduljalil al-Singace. I, too, got the same letter from the embassy.

The all-party group on human rights has been trying for some years to promote a genuine and substantive political dialogue between the Bahraini authorities and peaceful human rights defenders and opposition activists. Indeed, in 2012, marking the first anniversary of the publication of the Bahrain independent commission of inquiry report—a positive move by the Bahraini King that still needs to be properly followed through—the right hon. Ann Clwyd, the then all-party group chair and former Member for Cynon Valley, brought together such a group on the parliamentary estate to talk and listen to one another. Sadly, however, that did not result in ongoing engagement.

We all want to see a stable and prosperous Bahrain where every citizen can exercise their fundamental rights without fear of persecution, prosecution or detention. That will not happen until the Bahraini authorities engage in good faith with peaceful human rights and opposition activists. The clearest way to indicate their good faith would be by recognising all remaining prisoners of conscience and releasing them unconditionally, followed by initiating national dialogue with a view to establishing a more representative Government structure—one underpinned by the rule of law and respect for human rights.

If the UK Government are a true friend of Bahrain and the Bahraini people, they could help by persuading the Bahraini Government to take stock and embark on such a course of action. The UK Government should immediately stop parroting the line that abuses should be raised with domestic Bahraini oversight bodies. It has become increasingly clear that those bodies are limited in reach and in the interests they are able to serve. Additionally, the UK should stop funding the Bahraini Government’s reform agenda given that there has been so little to show for it so far. UK Government officials, including Ministers, need to meet a much wider range of Bahraini interlocutors to hear different perspectives and help to get everyone around the table. The alternative—unsuccessfully attempting to paper over the cracks—will lead only to a situation that none of us wants: growing discontent and instability, potential violence and even greater repression.

Let us take action now while we still can. I hope to meet Bahraini authorities and FCDO officials in the coming months and encourage colleagues to sign early-day motion 835 on human rights in Bahrain to express our collective concern about the situation and support a true path to reform.