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Bahrain — [Siobhain McDonagh in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:46 am on 11th September 2018.

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Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development) 10:46 am, 11th September 2018

Matters affecting the Bahraini embassy and its protection are at the front of our mind, and a conversation is ongoing with many of those who were involved. We hope that protest can be de-scaled, and normal service can return.

Secondly, Bahrain is taking a leading role in the region in protecting and safeguarding women’s rights. It is a party to the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, and last year, the Bahraini Parliament adopted new legislation designed to benefit women and children from all the country’s communities. I also welcome Bahrain as a signatory to the UK-led WePROTECT global alliance, demonstrating its commitment to combating the abuse of children online.

Thirdly, as has been mentioned during the debate, Bahrain is a regional leader in improving the rights and combating the exploitation of migrant workers. The Bahraini Government have increased the transparency of working conditions, introduced a victim-centred approach to their response to trafficking and exploitation, and signed the UK-led call to action on modern slavery. Such efforts have been recognised internationally. The US’s annual trafficking in persons report recently rated Bahrain a tier 1 country, the same as the UK, indicating that Bahrain fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Finally, Bahrain is taking steps to improve prison conditions, particularly for young offenders and vulnerable children.

Our objective in providing technical assistance is to help to bring about positive change by sharing the UK’s expertise and experience. One thing should be said straight up: the UK’s technical expertise in improving a human rights situation is usually employed in countries where that is needed. That is why we engage with countries where support is needed, as opposed to countries where everything is perfect, and that is what we have tried to do here. All training is provided in line with international standards and fully complies with our domestic and international human rights obligations. A number of colleagues have mentioned oversight bodies; the UK has been working with Bahrain’s independent human rights oversight bodies since their creation, following recommendations from the commission of inquiry in 2012. Our work has supported the building of effective institutions that hold the Bahraini Government to account. While those bodies still have more to do, they have already demonstrated their abilities, including through the prosecution of police officers accused of human rights abuses.

We also work to strengthen Parliament and youth engagement. Bahrain remains one of only two countries in the Gulf with an elected Parliament, and we look forward to elections this year. UK support has strengthened the institutional capacity of the Bahraini Parliament secretariat, enhancing staff skills to support MPs in their oversight of the Government, and the composition of that Parliament is wider than some outside critics recognise.