Carmichael calls for greater government spotlight on Bahrain human rights issues

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has spoken out in the parliamentary debate on human rights in Bahrain, calling for the government to take a more robust stance against abuse in the Gulf state. Mr Carmichael identified what he saw as a lack of balance in the UK’s engagement with Bahrain in the absence of significant progress in civil liberties. Mr Carmichael is a board member of the Council for Arab-British Understanding and a number of constituents wrote to the parliamentary office in advance of the debate.

Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:

“My consideration of the situation in Bahrain leads me to be most concerned about human rights abuses. We see the comments of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other human rights organisations that have taken an interest in Bahrain, and those people have no axe to grind other than because they have a concern for human rights.

“I understand the strategic importance of Gulf countries to the United Kingdom and of engagement with them. I also understand that sometimes we have to engage with a long-handled spoon, as it were, but that engagement is worthwhile only if we can see progress and a benefit from it, especially in the maintenance in human rights, and that the money we spend on countries such as Bahrain must show a rather better return than we have seen so far.

“It concerns me that, last year, the Home Secretary met Bahrain’s Minister of the Interior, Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa, in the wake of an appallingly violent attack against political prisoners in Jau prison in which inmates were subjected to mass torture and enforced disappearance at the hands of the authority. The meeting also took place following the arrest and abuse of 13 children who were subjected to threats of rape and electric shock. The United Kingdom ambassador to Bahrain, Roddy Drummond, also met Sheikh Rashid just a few weeks ago.

“Members of the House have heard me speak on numerous occasions about the case for Magnitsky sanctions in relation to several officers of the Chinese Communist party. I give every credit to the Government for their progress on that, especially in relation to those who are active in the Xinjiang region. However, we undermine our good work on China and other regimes if we do not approach Governments in places such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain with equal vigour.”

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